How Indiana Election Will Impact Online Casino Efforts

Posted on May 25, 2024

The results of November’s election could be crucial to Indiana legalizing online casinos next year.

That’s most evident in the race for the state’s top elected position. With pro-gambling Gov. Eric Holcomb termed out, a new person will occupy the governor’s seat in 2025. Will they back iGaming?

Less drastic changes should be seen at the Indiana General Assembly, though a few results could impact Indiana online casinos in the future.

Governor will be vital to iGaming efforts

It would be nearly impossible to legalize online casinos in Indiana without the governor literally signing off on it. Holcomb has been a strong advocate of expanding gambling in Indiana. He signed the sports betting bill into law in 2019 and was expected to support online casinos if lawmakers got a bill to his desk.

With him out in 2025, it will be up to either Democrat Jennifer McCormick, the former head of education in Indiana, or Republican Sen. Mike Braun to decide on online casinos if a bill makes it to them.

Unfortunately, neither candidate seems as passionate about expanding gambling in the state as Holcomb.

Unlike many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, Braun is willing to adapt to the times. He called the addition of sports betting “a natural evolution to add this to [Indiana]” during an interview with WHAS 840 in 2019.

That acceptance of the changing gaming landscape could bode well for online casinos going forward.

“I always preach to my kids, ‘whatever is working well today, do not count on it in four to five years. Be looking at other stuff and add to what you are doing.’ That is how you stay a healthy enterprise.”

McCormick has not addressed gaming directly, but her platform centers around funding public education, creating high-wage jobs and unions, and generating tax dollars to help Indiana residents. In many states, tax revenue from gambling is dedicated to those areas.

In the House

There are a few key House races that could impact online casino legalization.

Speaker Todd Huston is running unopposed and is expected to retain his role in the House. While Huston agreed to stop all discussions of gambling expansion in 2024, he sponsored a sports betting bill in 2019. Depending on the political climate, he could be key to legalizing iGaming.

Rep. Ethan Manning had planned to introduce an online casino bill in 2024 before the decision to halt the gambling debate. He is a strong supporter of gambling expansion in Indiana. He faces Democrat Richard Rouser for his seat in November. If Manning is defeated, it would be a big blow to online casino legalization.

Rep. Alan Morrison filed legislation in 2021 to legalize online casinos, but it was defeated. He recently filed House Bill 1048 to address “various gaming issues.” Morrison faces Democrat Chad Harmon in November to keep his seat.

In the Senate

About half of Indiana’s Senate seats are up for re-election, but most are incumbents running unopposed.

Like Huston, Senate President Rodric Bray agreed to end all gambling expansion talks until 2025. Unlike Huston, Bray tends to oppose online casinos and seems less likely to support iGaming legislation. Bray faces a challenge for his seat from Democrat Kimberly Schofield in November. Unseating Bray would likely be a benefit to online casino legislation, but the Senate is expected to remain heavily Republican in 2025.

Sen. Mark Messmer will also be seeking re-election in November. Messmer, who supported and assisted in the creation of a sports betting bill in 2019, is another proponent of expanded gambling. If he loses to Democrat Erik Hurt in November, it could adversely impact any iGaming legislation.

Skepticism remains after gambling scandals

Stains from the gaming scandal involving Rep. Sean Eberhart could still be present when the Indiana General Assembly convenes in 2025.

Toward the end of 2023, Eberhart was charged with a quid pro quo-type fraud conspiracy involving a casino company. Because of the scandal, lawmakers agreed to postpone any debate over expanding gambling in the state until 2025.

That scandal followed another when former Sen. Brent Waltz admitted in April 2022 that he received around $40,000 in illegal contributions from the same casino company as Eberhart in 2016.

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver who covers the Nuggets as a beat writer. He regularly contributes to PlayIndiana on issues surrounding the online gambling market. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and others.

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