If You Aren’t First, You’re Last: Indiana Sports Betting Way Out Ahead Of Its Neighbors

Posted on October 24, 2019 - Last Updated on January 3, 2020

With mobile sports betting live in Indiana, the potential for the Hoosier State to pull in out-of-state dollars has never been higher. The landscape of neighboring states’ sports betting legality ensures that will remain the status quo for a while yet.

Residents of Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio have waits of varying lengths before they can enjoy legal wagering on sports in their states. That’s good news for the Hoosier State.

Updates on neighboring states’ sports betting statuses

For Indiana, the longer its neighboring states take to legalize and launch sports betting, the better. Undoubtedly, the state is reaping the rewards of out-of-state bettors placing bets at Indiana sportsbooks on game day.

A bettor doesn’t even need to head to a casino, they simply need to cross state lines. With the recent launch of several online sports betting apps, it is now easier than ever to place a bet in Indiana.

The four states that neighbor Indiana represent a variety of political landscapes. Because of that, the legalization of sports betting is at different stages in all four.

In alphabetical order, the current situation in each of Indiana’s neighbors currently looks like this:

Illinois sports betting: So close yet so far away

In the Land of Lincoln, sports betting legalization was part of a law passed on June 28. Though the state has settled the large issue, many smaller ones remain.

The Illinois Gaming Board has just concluded its public comment period. The board has many decisions to make yet.

One of the biggest is how quickly to allow mobile betting. The law allows the IGB to restrict sports betting to only land-based licensees for up to 18 months.

Another issue is whether online operators, when they launch, can co-brand with casinos and racetracks in the state. That depends on how the IGB interprets the law.

There are also concerns about high licensing fees that could tie up the actual rollout of Illinois sports betting. Every day that’s delayed, Indiana benefits.

While Indiana also benefits from the status quo in Kentucky, the hope for the rollout of sports betting there is further in the future.

Kentucky sports betting: More than a year of nothing

A bill that would have given the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission the power to regulate legal sports betting surfaced in June of 2018. The bill was highly unrealistic, however, with a tax rate of almost 60% on handle.

Because of that, it didn’t go anywhere. Nothing more was done on the issue until the last few weeks.

Kentucky lawmakers have pre-filed bills that would legalize sports betting in both chambers of the state’s legislature. The pressure of having four neighbors that have legalized sports betting seems to be mounting in the Bluegrass State.

A similar situation prevails in the next state on the list as well.

Michigan sports betting: Close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes

In the Wolverine State, the lawmaker behind an initiative to legalize sports betting continues to apply pressure.

Late in 2018, the Michigan Legislature sent a gambling expansion bill to the desk of then-Gov. Rick Snyder. It included legalization for land-based and mobile sports betting.

Snyder surprisingly vetoed the bill before he left office. Since then, Rep. Brandt Iden has made other attempts to get similar legislation passed.

Iden believes he has the votes in both chambers of the Legislature to pass HB 4916. The problem, however, is again at the governor’s desk.

New Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is at odds with the legislation over the tax structure. She fears legal sports betting would cannibalize the state’s casinos and lotteries and therefore take dollars out of the state’s school aid fund.

Even if Whitmer’s objections are overridden or subside, that would simply put Michigan in the same place where Illinois currently sits. It would still be months before the sportsbooks would actually start accepting wagers.

Indiana has even less to fear from competition from the east, as Ohio is even earlier in the legislative process than Michigan.

Ohio sports betting: Conversations, hearings, not much more

Ohio’s House Finance Committee held a hearing on the topic of sports betting legislation just this week. Among those who spoke at the hearing were representatives for sportsbook operators and professional sports leagues.

At issue was an amendment to HB 194 that allowed the leagues to request the Ohio Lottery Commission to prohibit or restrict wagering on certain events. The amendment was added, but it wasn’t a wholesale victory for the leagues.

Committee members are resistant to including an official data mandate in the bill. If that is the case through enactment, it would be a win for the sportsbooks.

Though the bill’s sponsors hope to get the bill approved by the full House early next month, there is still much work to do that would delay sports betting in Ohio to early or mid-2020 at the soonest. If anything goes awry in the legislative process, that delay could span a longer amount of time.

The bottom line is that Indiana is going to be able to offer legal sports betting without competition from its neighboring states for a while yet. That’s a huge win for Indiana sportsbooks and the state treasury.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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