Indiana Rep. Ethan Manning introduced an online casino bill last week at the deadline to file bills in the House.
As new chair of the House Public Policy Committee, Manning will be able to make sure HB 1536 gets moving.
But whether Indiana online casino can reach the finish line in 2023 is still up in the air.
Manning told PlayUSA:
“It certainly still is a challenge. We have some members who just don’t like gaming, period, and others who just need to learn about the issue. But as I’ve been having informal conversations with members of my caucus and on the Senate side as well, nobody has told me no yet. So they’ll probably tell me no later, but we will see how things go.”
What’s in the 2023 Indiana online casino bill
By and large, HB 1536 is the same bill introduced in the House last year by Rep. Doug Gutwein. Manning would have introduced that bill but was already at his bill limit.
The language of the bill originally came from Sen. Jon Ford in 2021. Ford, who serves as president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, was instrumental in legalizing sports betting in Indiana.
Manning and Ford are working hand-in-hand to bring online casino platforms to Indiana.
This year’s bill includes online lottery and improves responsible gaming measures. Here are the details:
- Allows Indiana’s 14 casinos and racinos to offer online casino games and online poker.
- Casinos and “racinos” (race tracks that offer casino gaming) pay $500,000 for an interactive gaming license, renewable annually for $50,000.
- Each casino can partner with up to three online brands, or skins.
- An interactive gaming management vendor licensee pays $100,000 initially and $25,000 annually for renewal.
- Taxes Internet gaming revenue at 20% (up from 18%).
- Allows each interactive gaming licensee to deduct no more than $10 million annually in promotional credits.
- Allows Indiana to enter into agreements with other states and accept wagers from people located in other states if this is ever acceptable under federal law in the future.
- Of the five-sixths of interactive gaming revenue deposited into the state general fund, 10% goes to the addiction services fund. This equates to 8.33% to the addiction services fund, up from 3.33% in last year’s bill.
- One-sixth of interactive gaming revenue collected goes to cities and counties in which casinos are located.
- Authorizes the lottery commission to operate the online sale of draw games and digital representations of scratch-off tickets.
What happened in the 2022 legislative session
After introducing online casino legislation in 2021 and working during the summer to educate colleagues on the issue, Ford worked with House colleagues to introduce the bill.
Ford saw resistance to online casino legalization in the Senate from President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray.
The bill didn’t fair any better in the House, though. It had to start in the House Public Policy Committee, chaired by Rep. Ben Smaltz. Smaltz opposes online gaming and stripped online sports betting from legislation in 2019 before Ford restored it in the Senate.
Smaltz didn’t give the bill a hearing by the deadline to advance from committees and the bill died just two weeks into a short session.
Why 2023 could be different for Indiana online casino
Indiana online casino apps will have a more friendly face leading the House Public Policy Committee this year. Manning has taken over the committee.
“We do have one roadblock that we had last year that we don’t have anymore in that we have a new chairman of Public Policy in Indiana, and that is me,” Manning said. “So that certainly does help the efforts as we head into a new legislative session.”
Manning will surely advance the bill from his committee, but then it will still need to go through the House Appropriations Committee and pass on the House floor. Then it needs to go to the Senate, where it hasn’t had support from leadership.
Ford is a great champion who could bring it across the finish line if the bill comes over from the House, however.
Ford said that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb wants an online lottery option for the state so including it could help the push for online casinos.
Will 2023 be the year Indiana legalizes online casino games?
Indiana was a leader of states considering online casino legalization after the start of the pandemic when brick-and-mortar casinos were forced to close.
Despite that, only Connecticut has legalized online casino play since then. And that took place in conjunction with sports betting and only for the two federally recognized tribes in the state.
Indiana could still be the state to start the next wave of online casino legalization in the US. But the Senate leadership barrier remains.
Bray spokeswoman Molly Fishell told Indiana Capital Chronicle that he didn’t anticipate his chamber would move an iGaming bill this session.
Fishell said Bray cited several factors:
“The significant expansion of our gaming laws over the last four years, the fact that he doesn’t have constituents coming to him requesting iGaming, and that Indiana already ranks fourth in the nation for casino revenue.”
Feb. 27 is a key date to watch. That’s the deadline for House bills to cross over to the Senate. The Senate must pass bills originating in the House by April 18.
Manning pointed out that Indiana lawmakers may not have an urgency to bring in the added revenue from online casino taxes this year. The state has a $6 billion surplus.
Ford told PlayUSA he is hopeful that some of the barriers to online casino legislation in Indiana have been removed.
“It’s been a long two years for us. We had redistricting and other controversial topics, and elections, so I think some of our leaders were pretty nervous about what this would do for their reelection. So, we’ll see. Now that we’ve got past that, I’m optimistic. We’ll try to get some grassroots efforts and hear from constituents whether they want this or not.”