Indiana Businesses Push To Legalize Video Gaming Terminals

Posted on January 7, 2021

A new proposal could bring Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) to Indiana.

The proposed legislation will attempt to expand gambling in the Hoosier state by allowing games like video poker and blackjack inside of bars and restaurants.

Indiana’s General Assembly will discuss the potential change during the new legislative session. That session runs from Jan. 4-Aprl 29, so there’s a window of a few months to get this done.

VGTs in locally owned Indiana restaurants

If the proposal picks up steam, it could make for an interesting change to your go-to bar or restaurant.

VGTs are typically smaller than a pinball machine, so many Indiana spots already have the space for them.

The Indiana Licensed Beverage Association is the not-for-profit organization making the push for VGTs. Its president, Brad Klopenstein, says that VGTs would generate some extra cash for everyone involved.

“We are talking about generating probably about $100,000 or so per location per year. So we are not talking huge sums of money, but that money would be split a third between the operator, a third between the location and a third between county government.”

That revenue splitting would be a key difference between VGTs and the other forms of Indiana gambling like sports betting and casinos.

Tax revenue from those types of gambling flows into Indiana’s general fund. Under the new VGT proposal, the tax money would go directly to the county that the machine is in.

For example, if you use a VGT at your favorite bar in Marion County, any tax revenue would go directly to the county and the city of Indianapolis, rather than the state of Indiana as a whole.

The idea of dropping in for a few hands of blackjack in between beers would interest plenty of Hoosiers, but making that a reality won’t be so simple. Gambling expansion is always a tough sell in a conservative state like Indiana.

VGTs could also be overshadowed by a larger push for online casinos.

Indiana’s busy 2021 legislative session

The opening legislative session of the year will be a busy one.

Online casinos are also on the legislative docket for the next few months thanks to a new bill from Sen. Jon Ford. Because of that, VGTs might end up taking a back seat for now.

Since online casinos are incredibly profitable, they’ll likely take the priority over VGTs if it comes down to one or the other. They’re even more profitable than sports betting.

Since sports betting started in Indiana back in September 2019, it’s only created about $14.8 million in taxes. According to Ford’s estimates, online casinos could create $45-60 million in tax revenue every year.

Ford’s bill would legalize online casinos throughout the state. In other words, you’ll be able to play online blackjack from your couch if things go well.

However, just like VGTs, making online casinos a reality will be an uphill battle. Progress has been slow just to get to this point.

VGTs and online casinos are the natural evolution of gambling in Indiana. Gamblers around the state will be hoping that the newly-elected legislature will legalize both during the current session.

Photo by Associated Press
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a sports writer based in Indianapolis, IN. He's an Indiana University graduate who's spent time as a sports reporter covering teams at the prep, collegiate and professional levels.

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