Indiana took a few steps toward legalizing online casinos in 2020.
There’s still a lot of ground left to cover, but the process is finally underway.
Online casinos are the natural next step after regulated sports betting launched in the state in 2019.
Now, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for iGaming, which is a big step up from where Indiana was at this time last year.
Gov. Holcomb focuses on retail casinos
In January 2020, Gov. Holcomb did not have online casinos on his radar.
Instead, he was opting to focus his attention on growing the retail casino business throughout the state.
That meant splitting Gary, Indiana’s Majestic Star Casinos into a pair of Hard Rock properties. One of those “Rocksinos” is under construction in Gary, with its twin going up in Terre Haute.
That process has had its fair share of ups and downs, but both properties are set to become the latest and greatest of Indiana’s gambling scene.
Holcomb’s other main focus was to expand The Four Winds Casino in South Bend.
The Four Winds is Indiana’s only tribal casino, and the property has been looking to expand into slot machines, table games, and sports betting for some time.
That expansion process is within reach right now, so Holcomb’s 2020 gambling checklist for the state is almost complete.
For the majority of the year, there was no news on online casinos and iGaming, but some movement finally came in the fall.
Work starts on Indiana online casino bill
Sen. Jon Ford told PlayIndiana back in September that he had started work on an online casino bill.
Ford was a big force behind the push for legal sports betting in Indiana, so it made sense that the state senator would get involved in the online gambling action.
But although work was underway on the bill, Ford was expecting a drive for legalization to be an uphill battle.
Online gambling is a tough sell in a conservative state. Some lawmakers don’t want citizens to be able to play casino games like blackjack from the comfort of their homes.
According to Ford,
“When doing sports wagering, there were some folks who didn’t want people to bet online and bet in their home. There will be some people who think this is a big expansion of gaming in a conservative state. There’s still quite a few people that think that way.”
After all, Indiana almost didn’t have online sports betting.
Originally, Indiana’s House of Representatives passed sports betting legislation without the online piece of the puzzle. If not for Ford’s insistence on the online aspect, Hoosiers would have to drive to a casino every time they wanted to bet on sports.
Ford’s online casino bill has made a lot of progress since then, but there’s still work to be done.
The bill will finally be hitting the floor of the legislature in early 2021.
2021 could bring online casino gambling to Indiana
Ford’s bill has already been sent to the Indiana Legislative Services Commission to iron out the final version.
The bill should be ready to go in time for Indiana’s first legislative session of 2021. That session runs from January-April, so there’s a decent window to get things done.
Assuming that things go well, Indiana is in for a nice revenue increase. That’s because online casinos are much more profitable than sports betting.
Sports betting has only created about $14 million worth of tax revenue since it started in Indiana in 2019. Ford estimates that online casinos could bring Indiana between $45-60 million worth of revenue every year.
That’s a nice step up for the industry. That extra money could help make up for the gut punch that COVID-19 gave casinos this year.
The online casino progress might have been small in 2020, but it did set up a real chance at legalization in 2021.
Gamblers across the Hoosier State will be hoping that the bill becomes law next year. That legislation doesn’t include online poker, but it would at least allow bettors to enjoy games like blackjack and slots from home.