Indiana is the first state with online casino language for a 2021 legislative push.
Sen. Jon Ford shared details of his forthcoming internet gaming bill with PlayIndiana.
With Indiana’s 13 casinos and racinos suffering through a tough year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Ford intends the online gambling bill to provide a boost to the industry.
The legislation includes only casino games such as slots, blackjack, and roulette. It does not seek to authorize online poker.
Ford sent the draft bill to the Indiana Legislative Services Commission for finalization. He plans to begin campaigning for the bill in December prior to the start of the legislative session in January.
What’s in Indiana online casino bill?
Here are some of the key elements in Indiana’s iGaming bill:
- Authorizes online casino for 14 casinos/racinos, including the planned Rocksino in Terre Haute.
- Allows each casino to partner with up to three online brands, or skins.
- Sets the tax rate at 15%.
- Creates a $100,000 initial license fee renewable annually for $50,000.
- Establishes the Indiana Gaming Commission as the regulator.
Ford revealed disagreement among Indiana casinos on the skins issue. Some want the five online skins allowed in New Jersey (which include two for online poker). But others want fewer than three.
He did not include a percentage to local municipalities. But he suspects there will be a push to add such a local share assessment to the bill. He noted that Pennsylvania has casinos pay 2% of revenue to the municipalities in which they are located.
Ford indicated that the sports betting bill served as a guide for online casino legislation. However, there was one area in which he made adjustments after being displeased with the results in sports wagering. He added in language to allow gaming companies licensed in other states to get a temporary license in Indiana.
“We’re trying to speed up how fast we can get it up and running,” Ford said. “Sports betting took longer than we liked in the licensing process.”
Reasons for Indiana to pursue internet gaming
Ford projects online casino could bring the state between $45-$60 million in annual tax revenue.
With $1.8 billion in cash reserves, Indiana won’t be in as dire straights as some states entering the next budget process.
However, Indiana casinos were closed for months as a result of the coronavirus. Ford sees people more interested in online activities during the pandemic.
“I think the experience from COVID is that technology and being remote has really sped up,” Ford said. “Our casinos are still at 50% capacity, and I don’t see that changing before we start back up in January with the way the numbers are turning for COVID.”
Ford will use the increased reliance on technology and bringing the black market into the light as arguments for legalization.
Indiana leads national momentum for online casino
With states looking to increase revenue and sustain their casino industries, internet gaming figures to come up in many statehouses in 2021. Currently, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware, and West Virginia have authorized online casinos.
The future of online gaming was a topic this week in an online panel of the Global Gaming Expo. Chris Grove, a gaming analyst for Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, said he expected the number of states with internet gaming to double by 2025.
“We are increasingly warming to the view that a relatively rapid expansion of online casino is starting to trail behind that momentum that sports betting enjoys,” Grove said.
Howard Glaser, head of government affairs and special initiatives for Scientific Games, attested that, if all states with a casino industry embraced internet gaming, it would bring the states a collective $2.5 billion in tax revenue.
“The signal factor next year for states as they look at making policy is going to be the revenue holes they’re in. Maybe it doesn’t get completed by the end of the year, but this is going to be the year ahead of us where I think iGaming becomes a central discussion in state gaming policy that will play out over the next couple of years after that.”
Path forward for Indiana online casino bill
Indiana’s next legislative session begins early in January and goes to late April.
As one of the leaders in bringing sports betting across the finish line in Indiana, Ford has experience in getting colleagues on board for gaming legislation.
Ford said the bill will start in the Senate and he hopes to send it over to the House as soon as possible. However, with it unclear how the legislature will proceed amid coronavirus safety concerns, he’s not sure how quickly the bill will move.
“We’re going to put our best effort forward, educate our colleagues and see what happens,” Ford said.