Indiana Governor Indicates Online Casino Bill Likely Wouldn’t Come Until 2022 Or 2023

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Last year was historic for the Indiana gaming industry, as lawmakers passed a casino gambling package that will generate hundreds of millions of additional annual gambling win for stakeholders. It came at a much-needed time, as the state’s casino market has struggled in recent years, thanks in large part to gambling expansion in neighboring states.

Part of the package that Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law in May included allowing the Indiana Gaming Commission to issue sports betting licenses, for both retail sportsbooks sprinkled around the state and betting over web browsers and mobile devices statewide.

The new offering has been successful out of the gate and is continuing to pick up steam, with November seeing $9.29 mm in adjusted gross revenue from sports betting, which came off $147.28 mm in handle. In just its second month, online/mobile wagering accounted for more than 65% of the total handle. More than $96 mm of the $147.28 mm in total statewide handle came via the internet.

There were just three online/mobile sportsbooks live in November (DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetRivers). A fourth internet sports gambling platform, the BetAmerica product from Churchill Downs, opened its virtual doors in late December. More are in the pipeline.

Indiana has one of the most industry-friendly sports wagering markets in the country, thanks to a relatively low tax rate, no collegiate betting restrictions, and no in-person online gambling sign-up requirement.

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The state is a strong candidate to authorize online casino gambling in the future, but that might take multiple years. It’s unlikely Indiana will be home to an online casino debate in 2020, as additional online sportsbook launches will continue throughout the year. In other words, don’t expect the Hoosier State to allow online table games, slots, and peer-to-peer poker until regulated sports wagering is more fully implemented. Each Indiana casino operator is allowed three sports betting skins.

The companies offering online sports betting in the U.S. also are involved with online casino, so they will be ready once Indiana is. Behind-the-scenes conversations have already started.

Governor not yet eager for more iGambling options

Holcomb recently gave an exclusive interview with nwitimes.com about the state’s recent expansion of gambling. Holcomb is pleased with how sports betting is performing in the state, but he reportedly isn’t interested right now in seeing online casino legalization. It doesn’t appear the legislature is either.

Holcomb, who is up for re-election in November of this year, indicated, according to the interview, that he would also like to see the implementation of the land-based gambling expansion/reform before bringing casinos online in Indiana. There’s nothing surprising about that policy position.

The upcoming Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Ind., also made possible by the gambling package that Holcomb signed, could open in early 2021. According to a report from wibqam.com, a new brick-and-mortar casino in Terre Haute, Ind. could see its ground breaking event in the spring of this year. That casino could open in late 2021 or early 2022 thanks to a 14-18 month construction timeline.

Live dealer table games at a pair of racino properties, another component of the gambling expansion/reform package, debuted earlier this month.

With the casino construction timelines and Holcomb’s current policy position, we probably should not expect an online casino proposal to gain any traction in Indianapolis until at the earliest 2022. The year 2023 probably is a +EV bet for a serious policy push. An online casino bill may surface before then, but its function would likely be starting the public conversation and moving the ball down the field.

Indiana will soon find its online sportsbooks competing against legal sportsbooks in Michigan and Illinois, and possibly eventually in Kentucky and Ohio. Michigan is unique among this group thanks to its legalization of online casino gambling as well. The first online casinos in Michigan could launch in 2020, but it might take until 2021. Online/mobile sports betting should begin in Michigan this year, ahead of iCasino.

Kentucky isn’t considering online casino in its sports betting legislation, but it does call for peer-to-peer poker, which would give a reason for some Hoosiers to spend their gambling money in the Bluegrass State.

By the time the new brick-and-mortar casinos are open in Gary and Terre Haute, Indiana may find itself eager to compete with a robust online casino market in bordering Michigan. That could be a catalyst for an online casino bill in Indiana in short order, after the 2019 package is implemented.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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