Indiana’s efforts to legalize online casinos fell short once again in 2023. The House Public Policy Committee didn’t even grant the state’s casino bill a hearing.
Today was the House Committee Report Deadline, the last possible day for the internet casino bill to receive the thumbs up from the committee.
Clearing the group was the first major step for HB 1536, but the bill never managed to pick up any steam. The Public Policy Committee has met three times since the start of the legislative session, but never discussed the bill during its gatherings.
That’s a disappointing result since 2022’s online casino bill died in the exact same spot last year. Another year has gone by, and Indiana online casinos are still no closer to becoming legal.
Indiana online casino bill fails to clear committee
It’s only been a few weeks since Rep. Ethan Manning introduced an online casino bill to the state’s House of Representatives. Despite that, this year’s bill ran into the same roadblock as last year’s.
The 2022 bill also failed to receive a hearing in the Public Policy Committee.
That was largely due to Rep. Ben Smaltz, who was the head of the committee at the time. Smaltz wasn’t a fan of gambling expansion, and his resistance killed the bill’s progress before it began.
Snagging a hearing from the committee was expected to be a slam dunk for the 2023 bill thanks to Rep. Manning. Manning not only authored the bill, but recently replaced Smaltz as the chairman of the Public Policy Committee.
However, despite having his own bill on the chopping block, Manning followed in Smaltz’s footsteps by not giving the proposed legislation a hearing.
Now an effort to legalize VGTs could end up stealing the gambling spotlight. The legislature only has so much gambling bandwidth for any given year, and attention for other forms of gambling expansion could take priority now.
Adding internet lottery games to Indiana is another form of gambling expansion that was on the table this year. Online lottery was a part of the larger online casino bill, so at least for now, that’s also dead in the water.
That could change if lawmakers find a way to back door online lottery onto a different bill. At that point, it could still have a chance to be legalized this year alongside VGTs.
Financial report, budget surplus set up roadblocks
A big contributing factor to online casino’s failure was likely the bill’s errant fiscal note. That state’s Legislative Services Agency put together that financial report, which painted an inaccurate picture of what Indiana’s industry would have looked like.
The fiscal note raised concerns about cannibalization. In other words, the potential for online casinos to steal business from their in-person counterparts.
However, those fears aren’t based in reality. Online casinos haven’t cannibalized the retail industry in states that have them both, and they more than likely wouldn’t have done so in Indiana either.
Another roadblock for the online casino bill’s path was the fact that Indiana has a budget surplus.
One of the biggest positives of legal internet casinos are their enormous financial potential. Indiana’s potential $1 billion industry could have created up to $200 million of annual taxes for the state.
More money is always great, but the budget surplus meant that lawmakers weren’t rushing to find new forms of income for the state. That further dampened the momentum for online casinos in 2023.
Fourth time’s the charm for Indiana online casinos?
Indiana was likely the best hope among gambling states in the US to legalize online casinos in 2023.
While the US has been quick to embrace sports betting over the past few years, online casinos haven’t seen nearly as much support.
A handful of states already have legal internet casinos, and Indiana has been the only state that’s tried to make meaningful progress towards joining the pack in recent years. Hopes were high due to the massive potential of Indiana’s market, but things ultimately fell short once again.
Indiana’s various iGaming bills have all died in the early stages for three-straight years now.
Rep. Manning will likely take another swing at things in 2024. However, there’s no telling if that future bill will make it any further than its three predecessors.
That’s a disappointing outcome for Hoosiers that were hoping to gamble online in the near future.
At the very least, Manning and company will have another year to try and rally support for online casinos. Hopefully for Indiana gamblers, that will help build some momentum to finally legalize them in 2024.