Indiana lawmakers haven’t succeeded in passing standalone online casino legislation in the past three years. So they might look to include online casino in a larger gaming modernization bill in 2024.
Speaking at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) meeting in Denver last week, Indiana Sen. Jon Ford teased the new tactic.
“In ’24, I think you’ll see probably more of an overall type of bill,” said Ford, who serves as president of NCLGS. “A modernization of gaming will probably be the approach that we take.”
What Indiana could include in gaming modernization bill
Ford provided examples of what Indiana might include in a larger gaming modernization bill.
- Improve responsible gaming funding and measures.
- Increase athlete protections from sports betting.
- Restrict advertising for sports betting operators.
- Move poor-performing casinos to better locations.
Responsible gaming, athlete protections and restricting advertising were hot topics at NCLGS. The organization created a resolution with 16 suggestions for states to address responsible gaming and problem gambling policy.
In passing its sports betting bill in 2019, Indiana also permitted two riverboat casino licenses to relocate inland. Doing so allowed Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana to become the state’s biggest revenue producer.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Ford said. “So we’ve got to continue to modernize the gaming industry from Indiana’s perspective.”
Why Indiana online casino didn’t move this year
Because Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray isn’t a fan of online casino, supporters have tried to gain momentum for legislation in the House the past two years.
It appeared the legislation at least would get off the ground when Rep. Ethan Manning, who introduced the House bill, also took over as chair of the committee where the bill would start.
But Manning never called HB 1536 for a hearing in House Public Policy. He explained why to PlayUSA at NCLGS:
“I’m not a huge fan of just having hearings if you’re not going to vote on something. I could have gotten it through committee but there wasn’t support beyond that.”
Ford and Manning pointed to a few challenges the Indiana online casino bill faced in 2023:
- A fiscal impact statement produced by the Indiana Legislative Services Agency cited a decade-old study that online casino could cannibalize brick-and-mortar casino revenue by 30% or more.
- Another piece of legislation considered last session would have legalized video gaming terminals. The VGT operators and the bars and restaurants where they would be located came out against online casino.
- Members still need educating on what iGaming is and that a black market exists.
- After passing the 2019 modernization that included sports betting, lawmakers have some fatigue with gambling bills.
Manning and Ford think expanding the online casino bill to address other areas of concern to lawmakers could help it get support.
“Put together, I just said we don’t really have time to get this all done right now,” Manning said. “Now we have another year of data and another opportunity to work out some of those other issues.”