Longtime Indiana Gaming Advocate Jon Ford Resigns

Posted on September 18, 2023 - Last Updated on September 25, 2023

A strong supporter of gaming in the Indiana General Assembly has resigned as state senator.

Republican Sen. Jon Ford, who was a large force behind passage of sports betting legislation in Indiana, told State Affairs that his resignation will take effect on Oct. 16. He is resigning to pursue new professional options and for personal reasons.

How Ford’s resignation will impact efforts to legalize online casinos in Indiana is unknown.

Ford is taking his talents to Reliable Energy

Ford has attempted to legalize Indiana online casinos in the past and was expected to do the same in next year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly. As of now, the only allowed online casinos are sweepstakes casinos, which do not involve real money.

Ford told State Affairs that the decision to leave the Indiana General Assembly had more to do with realigning his personal life. After making that decision, Ford said the opportunity to take a position with Reliable Energy emerged.

“Some things in my life have changed that made me think, you know, the passing of friends and other life events made me rethink what I wanted to do in my life and what I had achieved in the district. I just felt it was time to move on. The job really came after the decision that it was time to move on.”

Ford’s departure means there is now one less expanded gaming advocate in the Indiana Legislature. The status of the online casino bills Ford was fighting for is unclear.

Ford worked to legalize online casinos

Ford has a long history in expanding gambling options in Indiana. In 2019, Ford helped legalize sports betting in Indiana. He also spearheaded efforts to bring two riverboat casinos back onto land. Now, the Indiana sports betting market is strong, and the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana that was brought inland tops the Indiana charts in terms of revenue.

Ford’s most recent undertaking was trying to legalize online casinos to Indiana. Regrettably, his efforts have been thwarted for the past three years. Because of difficulties of getting online casino bills through committees, Ford was looking to add online casinos through a larger gaming modernization bill that would be considered in 2024.

Now, with Ford stepping down, the future is murky on the legislation.

One thing that could provide some clarity is knowing who will take in his former position. At this time, there is no indication who that might be. Ford said he does not see himself recommending someone to fill his role as state senator or even participating in a vote.

“I don’t know at this time, it really depends, I guess, on who steps up. I don’t foresee myself being at the vote, to be quite honest. I think it’s a decision of the precinct committeemen.”

Future of online casino legislation takes a hit

Without an understanding of who comes next, it is almost impossible to predict what this means for expanded wagering in The Hoosier State. It is likely lawmakers will file some form of the gaming modernization bill. That bill is should cover many aspects of gaming in Indiana, including:

  • Adding more resources to problem gambling initiatives
  • Adding more protections for athletes in the arena of sports betting
  • Cleaning up advertising restrictions for sports betting operators
  • Moving casinos that are struggling to better locations

With Indiana state Rep. Ethan Manning now sitting as the chairman of the House Public Policy Committee and him working to pass such a bill, there is still hope that it could make its way through the Assembly. Though, even when Ford and Manning worked together in 2023, they were unable to acquire enough backing to pass the bill.

With Manning still operating as chairman, hope remains for passing a gaming modernization bill next session.

But the loss of Ford hurts.

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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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