Much to the chagrin of iGaming advocates, efforts to bring online casinos to Indiana took a big hit this year.
Among those disappointed is BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt. Recently, Greenblatt expressed frustration at the lack of progress in potential Indiana online casino legislation.
During BetMGM’s business update to analysts and investors on Monday, Greenblatt said his company aspired to expand its iGaming reach to other states next year. He specifically mentioned New York, Maryland and Illinois.
However, his optimism was laced with a heavy dose of caution, with Indiana given as an example of dashed hopes.
“And these are all highly caveated, by the way, because we’ve been both surprised and disappointed in the past in this regard, recent disappointing news in Indiana,” Greenblatt said during the call.
2023 marked Indiana’s third online casino legislation failure
At the beginning of 2023, there was optimism among some state legislators and online casino advocates that an iGaming bill could advance.
However, by mid-February, the legislation authored by Rep. Ethan Manning and supported by Sen. John Ford, who sponsored two iGaming bills in previous sessions, was dead. The bill, HB1536, never moved beyond the House Public Policy Committee chaired by Manning.
At the time, Ford was also president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. Ford announced his resignation from the Senate in September to make matters more dire. His departure left the legislature without one of its strongest champions of online casino legislation.
The flop of HB1536 marked the third time in recent years that online casino bills failed in the Statehouse.
Flawed reports, ignorance and corruption mean no efforts in 2024
Several factors doomed recent efforts to legalize online casinos in the state:
- A fiscal impact report from the Indiana Legislative Services Agency claimed online casinos would cannibalize land-based casinos. Ford called the report “a joke.” He cited other studies that showed iGaming had no impact on retail casinos in states where mobile gaming is legal.
- Ford said there was a lack of education about iGaming among legislators.
- A corruption scandal involving former Sen. Sean Eberhart, who served 16 years in the legislature. Eberhart pled guilty to taking a bribe from casino company Spectacle to support a bill that favored the company’s expansion efforts in the state. Eberhart faces up to five years in prison. He will be sentenced in February.
- Other corruption scandals also played a part. In the past few years, two other state lawmakers pled guilty to charges of being involved in an illegal campaign donation scheme involving Spectacle when it was known as Centaur Gaming.
Senate President Rodric Bray addressed the effect of scandals and the outlook for gaming expansion in Indiana. He said it “tainted the statehouse” before adding to his comment.
“It diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the Statehouse. It causes an awful lot of problems and it makes it particularly difficult to engage in that kind of policy,” Bray said.
With this backdrop, there will be no efforts to put online casino legislation or any gaming bills on the table in 2024. In other words, while operators like BetMGM Indiana can continue to offer sports betting, they will have until 2025 to see if online casino campaigns make a resurgence in Indiana.