The head of the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) is stepping down from the job next month. Sara Gonso Tait has been the commission’s executive director since 2016.
She’s been at the helm for some important changes in the state’s gambling industry.
Gov. Holcomb believes that her work with the IGC will have long-lasting effects for Indiana’s gaming scene.
“As executive director, Sara demonstrated a strategic vision for the Indiana Gaming Commission that delivered strong results in economic development while maintaining the highest level of integrity. Her leadership and innovation has made a positive impact on the state of Indiana that will continue beyond her time at the Indiana Gaming Commission.”
Indiana Gaming Commission helps sports betting
A lot of things have changed over the course of Gonso Tait’s time leading the IGC.
She was holding the wheel when Indiana sports betting started back in 2019.
Legalizing sports betting is one thing, but actually implementing it is an entirely different battle.
Indiana was in mostly uncharted waters trying to create regulations for the state’s industry.
At the time, it had only been a year since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That repeal removed the federal ban on sports betting, paving the way for states like Indiana to create their own industries.
Under Gonso Tait, the IGC created sports betting standards that have stood out around the country. If you were designing an ideal sports betting market from scratch, most of the commission’s rules and regulations would be on your wish list.
The commission’s successful implementation of sports betting has led to Hoosiers betting $4 billion on sports since 2019.
Lasting Indiana legacy for Sara Gonso Tait
Gonso Tait also set off the commission’s efforts to bring multiple riverboat casinos inland.
That led to Caesars Southern Indiana moving into a brand-new building, as well as the construction of the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.
Four Winds, Indiana’s only tribal casino, also became a full-fledged casino during her time with the IGC.
Gonso Tait is leaving the commission with a sense of accomplishment.
“I leave the Indiana Gaming Commission having accomplished significant goals and confident that my tenure served the agency, industry and state well. This role has been more than I hoped for and being the executive director has been a privilege and honor. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am truly appreciative of Governor Holcomb and his office for the incredible support, trust and opportunity to grow.”
She will be heading into the private sector after her final day with the IGC on Sept 10.
Trial by fire for Greg Small
Gov. Holcomb is appointing Greg Small as the IGC’s next executive director.
Small is currently serving as General Counsel for the commission.
Gonso Tait held the same role before then Gov. Mike Pence bumped her up to the IGC’s top spot.
As the commission’s lead attorney, Small has been at the forefront of the IGC’s recent battles with Spectacle Entertainment. That experience will come in handy during what could be an incredibly eventful first year for him as executive director.
The IGC created a new anti-corruption rule in response to the Spectacle scandal, and now that rule is under the spotlight.
A group of Indiana lawmakers is threatening to make the rule a key issue during the next General Assembly. Many stakeholders in the Indiana casino industry don’t like the terms of the new rule, especially when it comes to disclosing their financials.
Gonso Tait has been holding her ground on the rule so far. With the news of her departure from the commission, that likely won’t be changing over the next few weeks.
Small will have some important decisions to make when he takes over.
He can either tweak the rule, or follow Gonso Tait’s lead by standing behind the IGC’s original decision.
The commission just renewed the rule this morning, which suggests that the latter could be the policy going forward.
Terre Haute Hard Rock Casino troubles
One of the other big hurdles on the agenda for Small will be the Hard Rock Casino in Terre Haute.
It’s sister casino in already open for business in Gary, but construction hasn’t even begun on the Terre Haute project yet.
Lucy Luck Gaming was the casino’s parent company until the IGC recently scrubbed them from the project.
The commission is taking new applications to run the casino until Sept. 22. That deadline will be just over a week into Small’s run as the IGC’s executive director.
The project is way behind schedule, so making sure that things start moving in the right direction will be an important priority for Small early on.
Indiana online casinos in 2022
Outside of a possible battle with lawmakers and trouble in Terre Haute, Small could have the next big evolution of Indiana gambling to deal with.
Indiana failed to legalize online casinos this year, but the state will be taking another stab at things in 2022.
If the legislation passes this time around, then Small will be in the same position for online casinos that Gonso Tait was in for sports betting. Under Small’s direction, the IGC will have to create new guidelines and regulations for the state’s market.
Online casinos bring in tons of revenue and taxes, so implementing them correctly could become a crucial part of Small’s first year on the job.
All things considered, there’s a lot going on in Indiana’s gambling industry right now.
Small will have a full plate when he takes over for Sara Gonso Tait in September. Navigating those waters will create a busy first year for the gaming commission’s new executive director.