Lawmaker Doesn’t Foresee Allowing Pro Sports Teams To Offer Sports Betting

Posted on March 17, 2022

Don’t expect to see Indiana pro sports teams get their own sports wagering licenses any time soon.

A key lawmaker in passing Indiana’s sports betting bill doesn’t expect the state to reconsider the law to include sports teams in the next few years.

Allowing direct participation of sports teams in the market wasn’t even a consideration when Indiana legalized sports betting in 2019. The Hoosier State limited the market to 14 casinos and racinos.

Since then, Ohio, Maryland, Arizona, Illinois and Washington DC have allowed pro sports teams or their facilities to get sports wagering licenses.

Some early adopter states for sports betting might want to pass a bill in the coming years to let sports teams join the market. Despite that, Sen. Jon Ford talked to PlayIndiana about why he doesn’t think Indiana will be one of them.

“I think when we did it we were very thoughtful about what level of participation we want from professional sports,” Ford said. “In Indiana anyway, I think keeping a distinct distance is probably something that will always be there for the near future.”

Indiana teams haven’t asked for inclusion

In states such as Arizona, sports teams can partner directly with online operators to offer a sportsbook app, as well as a retail facility in or around their stadium or arena.

Ford said that Indiana teams haven’t approached him about pursuing a legislative change to do so as well.

Indiana professional teams do all have partnerships with sportsbooks.

At Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts, fans can sit in sportsbook lounges for Caesars and WynnBet. In these lounges, they can’t place wagers in person but are directed to download betting apps.

While additional states such as Missouri and Georgia are considering bills this year with licensing opportunities for sports teams, it appears Indiana teams are happy with their current involvement.

Conservative lawmakers concerned with sport integrity

Ford reminded that, even though Indiana does have its share of gambling, it is a Bible Belt state.

He doesn’t think lawmakers would be comfortable with giving sports teams more involvement in sports betting than they already have.

An incident such as Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s suspension for betting on NFL games doesn’t help matters.

“I think there’s got to be some line there, because the last thing we need for the industry or the sports teams is to have some kind of issue with the players,” Ford said.

Lawmakers also wary of oversaturation

Ford added that he didn’t think Indiana lawmakers would be interested in expanding sports betting. Not when he hears many of his colleagues express displeasure at the volume of sports wagering advertisements.

“We’re starting to hear some grumbling about the amount of advertising and the sheer number of ads,” Ford said. “It’s a fine line. A lot of people worry about kids seeing it and then getting active in sports wagering. I believe we’ve got a lot of safeguards up, but I think the ads we’re starting to really hear some issues with.”

Sports wagering is bringing in big revenue for the industry and state. That revenue comes from a healthy amount of competition with sportsbooks vying for customers.

That inundation of sports betting ads has become noticeable in many states.

Ford said he didn’t think the legislature would have to step in to limit marketing spend, but it’s a possibility in the future. Indiana wrapped up its 2022 legislative session Monday.

“I think the industry is hearing the message,” Ford said. “I think they know they’re getting a lot of complaints, so I think they’ll self-regulate themselves a little bit on that.”

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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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