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Legalized Sports Betting Comes to Indiana as Governor Signs H 1015

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With the signature of Governor Eric Holcomb (R) on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, H 1015 became law, legalizing sports betting in Indiana. The bill had been passed by the Indiana legislature on April 24.

Indiana Law Now Permits Sports Betting

Details of IN Sports Betting

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All sports betting within the state will be under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Gaming Commission. The entities that will be allowed to host this wagering activity will include casinos, racetracks, and off-track betting facilities.

Licensees will also be able to offer betting on sports over the internet, including on mobile devices. Much as in other regulated i-gaming states, wagering will be available only to those physically located within Indiana's borders whether these customers are residents or just visitors.

A license will cost $100,000 to obtain and $50,000 annually to renew. Additionally, “sports wagering service providers” – that is, those who provide wagering equipment, maintenance firms, third-party odds suppliers, and similar entities – will have to apply for licenses at $10,000 apiece.

Revenue will be taxed at a rate of 9.5%. 3.33% of the taxes collected are earmarked for an addiction services fund to combat problem gaming. The remainder will be deposited in the state's general fund.

In order to place bets, patrons will have to be at least 21 years old. Wagering on esports is prohibited as is betting on the outcomes of amateur events involving participants under 18. On the plus side, in-play or live betting is permitted.

Indiana Gaming CommissionThe Indiana Gaming Commission Will Promulgate Rules and Issue Licenses for Sports Betting

The Indiana Gaming Commission will begin accepting applications on July 1. Some expect betting to be available in time for the start of the next NFL season this fall, but this will likely only encompass wagers at brick-and-mortar establishments with online betting to commence at some later date.

Other Measures

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H 1015 isn't concerned solely with wagering on sports although this is what occupied the lion's share of the public's attention. There are other provisions contained within the text.

Two riverboat casinos will be allowed to relocate. Furthermore, Indiana racinos will be able to start offering table games at the beginning of 2020, much sooner than they were originally scheduled to be allowed to do so. There is also language relaxing the limitations about how many gaming properties within Indiana one person or organization can own.

Comments From Prominent Figures

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While the introduction of a new form of gambling to Indiana was bound to be tied up with some controversy, most are pleased by its passage.

In a statement accompanying his approval of the bill, Governor Eric Holcomb wrote:

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.

Indiana Governor Eric HolcombGovernor Eric Holcomb Views Sports Betting as an Economic Benefit for Indiana

State Senator Jon Ford (R), who championed the State Senate version of H 1015, stated in a press release:

…our focus is on making sure that the state benefits in the best way possible for our constituents. It is our job to get this right. We can learn from where other states have gotten it right and when they might have stumbled. We can get ahead of the curb [sic] thanks to those who came before us and gave us the blueprint.

The American Gaming Association has also expressed its approval of the recently signed legislation.

Legislative History

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The theoretical pathway for legalized betting in The Hoosier State was opened up by the May 2018 decision in the Supreme Court case Murphy v. NCAA. It declared that the longstanding federal ban on state-licensed sports betting was unconstitutional.

SCOTUS Overturns PASPAThe Murphy Decision by the Supreme Court Was Needed Before Most States Could Enact Sports Betting Legislation

Several bills hit the Indiana General Assembly in January 2019, but most of them fizzled out before progressing very far. However, S 552, introduced by state senators Jon Ford and Mark Messmer (R) on Jan. 15, proved to have legs.

The bill proceeded through various committees and readings until it was approved by the Indiana Senate on Feb. 26 by a 38-11 majority. It then went to the House where it passed with a vote of 78-15 on April 15.

While the bill was in the House, several amendments were added, which were not to the liking of the Senate members. Therefore, a conference committee was appointed to iron out the differences.

On April 24, there was agreement on the final version of the bill, which had been re-designated as H 1015. The House OKed it with a vote of 59-36 and the Senate by 37-12. It then went to the governor, who affixed his signature on May 8.

One of the contentious matters that stymied agreement on the bill for a while was the issue of mobile wagering. It had been included in the original text of the bill, then removed, then re-added. State Representative Ben Smaltz (R) was instrumental in cutting online betting from the legislation, and he was not pleased that it had been reinserted in the final text. Explaining his reasoning, Smaltz said:

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?

Photograph of Ben SmaltzState Rep. Ben Smaltz Is Concerned About the Impending Proliferation of Mobile Betting

Indiana Sportsbook Economic Prospects

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Though Indiana may not have the cachet of Nevada or New Jersey when discussing gambling matters, there are plenty of reasons why its sportsbook industry may outperform expectations. Most of the states that have implemented this type of wagering are located on the East Coast, and none of Indiana's Midwest neighbors has successfully passed the necessary laws although some of them seem close.

The combination of a likely first-to-market advantage in the Midwest region along with the quite modest 9.5% tax rate may prove irresistible to both operators and patrons alike. The mobile and online aspects of H 1015 are a key to its probable success. Figures from New Jersey suggest that internet betting accounts for about 80% of all sportsbook revenue in the Garden State, so its inclusion in the IN legislation could boost the total tax haul substantially.

Projections for annual tax revenue from Indiana sports betting lie in the $10 million to $12 million range.

More Online Gaming to Follow?

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None of the language in H 1015 deals with online poker in Indiana or any other form of internet wagering, like casinos or bingo – other than, of course, gambling on sports. Still, all the ingredients seem to be in place for an eventual expansion into this field.

Around a dozen brick-and-mortar casinos are already present inside Indiana, and quite a few of them boast poker rooms. It's traditional for states to already have live outlets for real money gaming before dabbling in the online variety, and Indiana certainly ticks this box.

The Horseshoe HammondThere Are Several Places to Play Cards in Indiana, Like the Horseshoe Hammond

Once Indiana's officials get a taste for how online sports betting works (and the sums of money thereby collected), it's not unreasonable to suppose that they'll elect to license online table games, slots, and poker. Perhaps Representative Smaltz' worry that people will soon expect to enjoy a plethora of wagering pastimes on their mobile devices is well-founded.

No Need to Wait on Indianapolis

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Though fully legal Indiana sports betting is expected to be ready later this year, you don't actually have to wait even that long to get your fix of sporting action. Plenty of offshore bookmakers service Indiana's residents, and despite the fact that their offerings don't have the approval of the authorities in Indianapolis, there's really nothing that state leaders can do to interfere with these bookies.

You're totally in the clear legally if you wish to sample these online betting websites because no Indiana resident has ever gotten into trouble with the state law merely for participating in online gambling. At the federal level too, you're completely safe because all of the U.S. statutes that deal with this topic target those running the internet gaming sites, not individual users.

For more on places online where you can put down some money on athletic competitions, take a look at our recommended sportsbooks for US readers. Or for casino fun, read our list of honest internet casinos available to Americans. If you'd rather play some poker, then our guide and review of the best USA-friendly online poker venues should meet with your approval.