In the latest sign of legal sports betting’s increased momentum, the Governor of Indiana became the second state executive to sign legislation in the span of a week. Governor Eric Holcomb signed Indiana sports betting House Bill 1015 into law on May 8, officially adding the Hoosier State to the list of regulated sports betting markets.
On May 3, the Governor of Montana signed a similar gambling expansion effort, while the state Senate of Tennessee passed its own sports betting bill to the Governor’s desk on April 30. The Governor of Iowa is also considering a sports betting bill approved by the state on April 22.
States secured the right to regulate their own sports betting industries as they see fit back on May 14 of last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 26-year old federal ban on single-game wagering outside of Nevada.
In nearly a year since then, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – have gone live with legal sportsbooks in both brick and mortar and online / mobile form.
Indiana Sports Betting Follows New Jersey Model to a Tee
Under the terms of the Indiana sports betting bill, introduced in January and sponsored by state senator Mark Messmer (R-48), the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) can begin accepting license applications on July 1 of this year.
As is the case in New Jersey, the state’s 14 casinos, along with horseracing tracks, can pay $100,000 to obtain a sportsbook operator’s license. Gross gaming revenue will be taxed at a rate of 9.5 percent on all wagers – straddling the Garden State’s dual rate of 8.5 percent on retail and 13 percent on online / mobile.
And bettors in Indiana will have access to online / mobile apps operated by licensed bet shops.
In a public statement, Holcomb celebrated Indiana’s gambling expansion ambitions:
“Gaming is a highly regulated industry that once had little competition, but now does from surrounding states and new technology.
By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers. Additionally, it will bring in new revenue and create hundreds of new jobs – both permanent and in construction.
I will direct the Indiana Gaming Commission to monitor for potential effects of this bill so that we can make necessary changes in future legislative sessions.”
Sara Slane – who serves as senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association (AGA) – praised Indiana’s progress on sports wagering in a press release:
“Indiana is one step closer to reaping the benefits of legal, regulated sports betting with a framework founded on a sensible tax rate and free from unnecessary league fees or carveouts.
The Indiana sports betting bill enables conveniences like mobile wagering and a safe alternative to the pervasive illegal market for the millions of Hoosiers who are already betting on sports.”
Online / Mobile Debate Remains Contentious
As chair of the House Public Policy Committee, state representative Ben Smaltz (R-52) worked to strip online / mobile wagering from the original legislation following the Senate’s passage.
The House then passed a retail-only bill, prompting the Senate to reject the bill as written and reinsert online / mobile language during conference committee.
Upon learning that his efforts had been thwarted, Smaltz harangued his colleagues for embracing iGaming in any form:
“This is a monumental policy shift, and this is the beginning. I’m not excited about having sports wagering in my community anywhere.
I’m really not excited about what happens in six years or less, when there’s new people here and somebody comes and says isn’t it silly we can bet on a football game but I can’t play blackjack or roulette on my phone?”
State representative Terri Austin (D-36) disagreed, using her floor time to tell members of the House that Indiana couldn’t afford to abandon technological advances out of hand:
“The truth is gaming is an ever-evolving industry, just like entertainment is. Nobody could have ever told me 10 years ago that I could watch my favorite TV shows on my phone.
To me, this is being progressive and it’s recognizing that in a free market, you had better stay on your toes or you’re going to be left behind.”
For his part, Messmer didn’t mince words defending the inclusion of online / mobile wagering:
“If you have sports betting without a mobile app platform, you don’t really have a very usable tool.”