Indiana Online Casino Bill Fails To Take Flight Amidst Spectacle Scandal

Posted on February 18, 2021

Online casino legislation died in the Indiana Senate this week without ever leaving the nest.

Sen. Jon Ford filed S 417 in January to help a casino industry struggling from losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

He hoped to get the internet gambling bill a hearing in his Senate Public Policy Committee. However, it never even got assigned from the Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure.

The Senate deadline for legislation to advance from committee passed Thursday, effectively killing the bill.

“We’re very disappointed that the bill did not move in the 2021 legislative session,” said Matt Bell, president and CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana. “Now that companies are launching online in Michigan, we really would have benefited from iGaming as a way to reintroduce our properties and bring in new patrons.”

Spectacle Entertainment scandal partly responsible

Bell disclosed two reasons he thought the bill failed in 2021:

  1. The ongoing pandemic limited committee sessions and prevented typical interactions with lawmakers to lobby for the bill.
  2. A casino industry scandal in Indiana made legislators uncomfortable considering new gaming.

The Indiana Gaming Commission is investigating Spectacle Entertainment executives over possible improprieties in obtaining approval to build casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.

A source tells PlayIndiana that Senate President Rodric Bray didn’t want to do a gaming bill with the investigation hanging overhead.

“Our industry as a whole was not implicated by that investigation, and the integrity of gaming in Indiana is not in question,” Bell said. “But I think there was enough publicity surrounding that investigation that the legislature wants to take a step back and understand what’s going on there.”

Indiana casinos have to wait on boost from online casinos

As a result of the pandemic, Indiana casino revenue declined 7.1% in 2020. Lower casino revenue leads to fewer taxes paid to the state.

Indiana casinos still operate with restrictions, and many regular patrons have stayed away out of precaution.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania casinos got revenue from internet gambling to continue thriving during the pandemic. Beginning last month, Indiana’s northern neighbor Michigan also brought casino gaming online.

Despite the setback, Bell hopes to build momentum for Indiana online casinos in 2022.

“I still think there’s interest in legalizing iGaming in the legislature,” Bell said. “I think it’s a matter of timing, not policy. We will continue to educate lawmakers and make a great case for iGaming in 2022.”

Photo by Flyingrussian | Dreamstime.com
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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