There has been a consistent effort to legalize online casinos in Indiana. However, despite bill after bill, proposal after proposal, lawmakers in support of this form of iGaming have been unable to get it across the finish line.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s neighbor to the north Michigan is running a thriving online casino industry. That follows the trend of other Midwestern states. Some, like Indiana, have legalized online sports betting but are hesitant to jump into the online casino waters.
This does not mean there isn’t a path forward for Indiana online casinos in the near future. Momentum is beginning to build as the next session of the Indiana General Assembly nears.
Attempts to legalize online casinos have all fallen short
Earlier this year, a bill aimed at legalizing Indiana online casinos failed to gain traction during the 2023 legislative session. That marked three consecutive years that online casino legislation didn’t make it to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.
State Rep. Ethan Manning has led the charge on most of those attempts. His bill last session, House Bill 1536, would have allowed online casino and lottery games on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.
The bill faced stiff criticism right out of the gate. Indiana state Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray said his chamber would likely not support the measure given that Hoosiers were not clamoring for it.
He also pointed out that the state had legalized Indiana sports betting just three years prior. There was also a concern that online casino games would take business away from the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos. Some have dispelled that notion.
Manning never asked for a hearing on HB 1536. He said he needed more time to better educate lawmakers and the public on the importance of legalizing iGaming.
Manning, along with Rep. Doug Gutwein, was also behind an attempt to legalize online casinos in the 2022 legislative session. That effort died in committee. Its failure was blamed on a short session and an ongoing investigation of former gaming operator Spectacle Entertainment.
Why an Indiana online casino bill could pass in 2024
Despite not being able to get online casino legislation passed over the last three years, Indiana lawmakers have reason to be optimistic about the possibility of getting something passed in 2024. Several factors could play a role in getting a bill to gain traction in the General Assembly, which begins its next session on Jan. 2.
Could be part of gaming modernization bill
Indiana State Sen. Jon Ford also supports legal online casinos in The Hoosier State. He believes including them in a larger gaming modernization bill in 2024 could be the way to go.
Ford says the bill can focus on several gaming aspects:
- Improving responsible gaming funding and measures
- Increasing athlete protections related to sports betting
- Adding more restrictions on advertising by sports betting operators
- Allowing poor-performing casinos to move to better locations
Indiana governor could be brought on board
Bray is a big reason the most recent attempt at online casinos failed. However, Holcomb’s voice could carry even more weight than Bray’s. The governor could be a strong advocate for online casinos in the state.
Holcomb supported the push to add sports betting in 2019. He has also said he is keeping an open mind on adding an online lottery. So, if lawmakers could get Holcomb on board with online casinos, it could rally enough support to get legislation moving.
Keep pointing out the millions of dollars lost by not legalizing online casinos
The most significant selling point to help push the legalization of online casinos in Indiana is the amount of money the state is missing out on. Based on an American Gaming Association study, around $91.8 billion is wagered every year through illegal online casinos by people living in the 12 Midwest states. That amounts to around $3.7 billion in revenue going to black market operators.
The combined population of those states is about 69 million. Indiana has the fourth-highest population of the 12 and accounts for about 9.8% of the total number of people in the region.
A 9.8% share of $91.8 billion in handle wagered at illegal online casinos and $3.7 billion in lost revenue comes out to $8.9 billion in handle and $362.6 million in revenue.
Indiana online sports betting revenue is taxed at 9.5%. Suppose we apply that same tax rate to the estimated lost revenue to illegal online casinos in Indiana of $362.6 million. In that case, it works out to approximately $34.4 million in taxes lost to the black market that could go to the state of Indiana.
That money could be put toward education, infrastructure projects, economic relief programs and much more to help the people in Indiana. Bringing these numbers to the table could get a bill legalizing online casinos to Holcomb’s desk in 2024.