After the success sports betting has seen in Indiana, state lawmakers are starting 2021 with the hopes of expanding online gaming.
State Sen. Jon Ford has introduced his interactive gaming bill to the Indiana Senate. Senate Bill 417 aims to legalize internet gaming in Indiana and would permit Indiana’s 14 casinos and racinos to offer internet casino games and online poker. This would include the planned Rocksino, which is scheduled to open in Ford’s hometown of Terre Haute in 2022.
With the state continuing to break sports betting records, Ford said he believes online gaming could be the next key addition for increased revenue throughout the state. In the latest report from the Indiana Gaming Commission, the state’s total sports betting handle was $313 million for the month of December, breaking the previous mark of $251 million set in November.
“A large part of that was done online,” Ford said of the sports betting record. “So, I think you see with sports wagering, you can see there’s clearly a demographic out there that wants to engage in gaming through their mobile phones.”
Initially, Ford was hesitant to include online poker when he brought out the first draft of the bill in the fall of 2020. But after studying other states and the success they’ve had with online poker, he decided to include it in the bill.
“Mainly studying New Jersey and Pennsylvania and what they’ve done,” Ford said about his decision to include online poker in the bill. “And really to leave it as an option for the gaming commission to make that decision should they deem (online poker) to be a good opportunity.”
Ford projects the bill, which he introduced Monday, could bring in between $65 to $80 million in annual tax revenue to the state without the need to increase taxes. The added income would aid the casino industry, which experienced large revenue losses in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and the capacity limits enforced throughout the state. Currently, casinos in Indiana are operating at 50% capacity.
Illinois and Iowa are also looking to add more online gaming options.
In the latest report from the Indiana Gaming Commission, Indiana’s casino state-wide total win decreased 74.9% from last year to $523.7 million. As a result from the losses, wagering tax fell $142.3 million with a 27% decline, while supplemental tax declined $12.4 million with a 27.4% decrease from 2020.
“With our casinos shutting down, it just seems to make sense and make it a good time for digital inclusion to get sped up with COVID,” Ford said. “People are doing more and more digitally than ever before.”
On Wednesday, Representative Alan Morrison introduced his companion bill to the house with House Bill No. 1406, which would authorize online casino gaming in Indiana. The bill would allow Indiana’s 13 casinos to secure licenses and offer interactive gaming with an upfront fee of $500,000.
Also on Monday, state Sen. Susan Glick introduced Senate Bill 267, which would authorize betting on video gaming terminals (VGTs) in veterans service associations, according to a report on Indianapolis TV station WISH's website. It is a separate bill from Ford’s bill.
Brad Klopenstein, the president of the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association, said the machines could generate revenue from $50,000 to $100,000 a year and would be split three ways among the operator, the location and the county government, the wishtv.com story said. The revenue from the machines would assist counties without a casino.