On May 8, 2019, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed HB 1015, making Indiana the ninth state to legalize sports betting since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act almost exactly one year earlier.
Indiana was the second state behind Montana to legalize in 2019, and along with nearby Iowa, was one of two states that were able to go from legal to live in less than four months. Indiana retail sports wagering (in-person betting) was up and running by Sept. 1, 2019, and online/mobile followed on Oct. 3.
Best legal Indiana sportsbooks
Inside the provisions of HB 1015
This 63-page bill moved relatively swiftly through the state legislature, and Indiana, which already had a mature gaming infrastructure, was able to quickly adopt rules and regulations and issue licenses for sports betting.
Casinos were legalized in Indiana in 1993, and the state has 14 commercial and tribal casinos. Because the casinos have existed for more than 25 years, Indiana already had a gaming commission, and many of the regulations that would be related to sports betting were already in place. Rather than start from scratch, as required in states with no casinos, Indiana was able to expand its gaming commission and develop rules and a licensing process specific to sports betting.
Here’s a look at the details of the bill:
- It allows for retail and statewide mobile sports betting;
- Patrons can register remotely (i.e. online) for a mobile sports betting account;
- The minimum legal age for sports betting is 21;
- Only existing land-based facilities can offer sports betting, so operators must partner with those facilities in order to offer mobile sports betting;
- Each land-based facility can have up to three skins or mobile brand platforms;
- Betting on college sports, including Indiana teams, is allowed, but prop bets on college sports are prohibited;
- The tax rate on operators is set at 9.5% of gross sports wagering revenue;
- Betting on amateur sports (involving players 18 or under) and eSports are banned;
- The annual license fee for an operator is $50,000.
The Indiana Gaming Commission is the regulator, and the state’s take from sports betting is earmarked for the General Fund.
Data and “integrity”
The new Indiana law does not have a mandate to purchase “official league data” for pro sports leagues, nor does it call for any kind of fee to be paid to the professional sports leagues. That said, Indiana was the first state in which the idea of an “integrity fee” — a payment to the professional leagues — first appeared in a bill, in January 2018.
Some states, however, have legalized sports betting with the requirement that sportsbooks use official league data — data purchased directly from the professional league or its designee.
With regard to paying a fee to the leagues — called either an “integrity fee” or a “royalty” — the professional leagues have reduced their initial ask of 1% of handle (about 20% of gross gaming revenue) to 0.25%. States continue to resist, however, and in Indiana, the fee was ultimately stripped from the bill that Gov. Holcomb signed, as explained below.
IN sports wagering legislation timeline
In January of 2018, Indiana lawmakers first started to discuss sports betting, and Representative Alan Morrison filed HB 1325, a bill that included an integrity fee, marking the first time that phrase appeared in sports betting legislation. The professional leagues had and have been lobbying across the U.S. for a cut of handle.
The idea behind an integrity fee is that sportsbooks would pay a percentage of handle to the professional leagues in addition to taxes and other fees. Morrison’s bill, using language from the sports league’s “model sports betting legislation,” proposed a 1% tax on handle benefiting sports leagues, and referred to it as an integrity fee. The NBA, PGA Tour and Major League Baseball have taken the lead on pushing for a fee across the country, but to date, no state has approved one.
Morrison’s bill was replaced by a new bill from Senators Mark Mesmer and John Ford that did not include the fee. In 2019, the leagues backed down from 1% of handle, asking instead for 0.25%. Even with the reduction, state lawmakers have not been open to adding an additional fee, which would be above state and federal taxes, application fees and the like.
Sports betting legislation didn’t make it to a vote in 2018, but discussions about it laid the groundwork for the path to legal sports betting in 2019.
Getting from legislation to legal sports betting in Indiana was not a straight line. Representative Jerry Torr introduced a bill on Jan. 3, 2019, that passed the full House, 76-8, with no amendments on Feb. 4. Then things got sticky.
The Senate version of the bill was stripped of its statewide mobile component by the House Public Policy Committee on March 27. An earlier hearing on the bill had lasted more than five hours and pointed to potential trouble as it moved forward. About two weeks later, the House passed the bill, 78-15, without the mobile component. All the back and forth led to a conference committee that hammered out the details between the House’s 1015 and the Senate’s 552.
In the end, as the clock ticked down toward adjournment on April 24, the conference committee presented its compromise bill — which includes statewide mobile — in both chambers, and it passed the House, 59-36, and the Senate, 37-12. The conference committee brokered a deal for mobile and also included payments to four Indiana cities that were expecting revenue losses due to new casinos in the state. The measure also authorized a potential new casino in Terre Haute.
The bill legalized sports betting at casinos, racinos and select other venues. Governor Eric Holcomb signed it into law on May 8, and less than four months later, the first sports bet was placed. Indiana became the first Midwest state to legalize, and Iowa and Illinois quickly followed suit.
Hoosier State online betting details
Bettors will find a variety of events to bet on, as well as promotions, bonus codes and free play on each operator’s website or mobile app. The number of mobile apps in Indiana will grow over time and will ultimately far outnumber the amount of retail options, as each brick-and-mortar sportsbook is entitled to up to three skins.
Is remote registration allowed?
Those wishing to bet on mobile devices can register from their device without visiting a casino or sportsbook. Those wishing to register on a mobile site will usually have to provide personal information such as name, address and Social Security number to establish an account. Indiana online sportsbooks offer patrons many ways to deposit and withdraw funds.
How many “skins” does each sportsbook get? And what is a skin?
Three. A skin is the number of mobile platforms that a single casino can offer, and in Indiana, each casino is entitled to up to three skins. That means that each casino could partner with multiple mobile operators.
What sports can you bet on in Indiana?
The new law allows for betting on professional and college sports but does not allow for prop bets on college sports. In addition, the Indiana Gaming Commission in January 2020 made it legal to bet on the Academy Awards. In the first quarter of 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis swept the world, the IGC expanded the list of available wagering events, including table tennis, Australian Rules Football and cricket.
Below is a list of approved sports to bet on in Indiana, as of March 19, 2020:
- Aussie Rules Football
- Auto Racing
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Academy Awards – Category Winners
- Skiing and Snowboard
- Table Tennis
- Track and Field
Indiana casino legal history
Indiana legalized casino gambling in 1993, initially limiting the operations to riverboats. Over time, video poker and slot machines were made legal at racetracks and the rule that casinos must be on riverboats was relaxed. In fact, the new law that allows for sports betting also calls for the construction of two land-based casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.
There are currently 14 casinos in Indiana, including one tribal casino, two racinos, three land-based casinos, and eight riverboat casinos. After casinos were legalized in 1993, more than 50 potential operators applied for the state’s 12 available licenses. The first licenses were granted in December 1994 to two riverboats in Gary. Those two riverboat casinos — one owned by Donald Trump — opened on June 11, 1996.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the state added racetracks to the list of authorized locations for gaming. At that time, Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs were approved for up to 2,000 slot machines each. In January 2020, both racetracks began offering live-dealer table games, as is now permitted under Indiana’s expanded gaming law. Both racinos are owned by gaming and hospitality giant Caesars, which is set to become acquired by Eldorado Resorts.
The state’s gaming laws have continued to evolve, and in 2015, the state legislature amended the existing casino law to allow gaming on land. Two years later, the Tropicana Evansville became the first full-fledged Indiana casino on land. The only tribal casino in the state, the Four Winds South Bend, opened at a new location in 2018.
Future of online, legal online casinos or poker
After legalizing sports betting in 2019, it appears that Indiana will hit pause on more online gaming expansion. While there have been conversations in the state about online casinos and poker, Holcomb says he won’t be ready to support those until the future brick-and-mortar casinos on the books are up and running.
The leap from brick-and-mortar casino games and poker to online play should be relatively simple in Indiana, as most of the companies that run online sportsbooks also have online casinos or poker. As soon as the state is ready to move forward, they likely would be, too.