Despite it being technically illegal in Indiana, sports gambling remains a popular pastime for fans. However, on Feb. 26 the Indiana Senate passed Senate Bill 552, which legalizes sports gambling, putting it one step closer to becoming another form of state-approved gaming. According to State Sen. John Ford, Hoosiers illegally gamble $300 million every year. A decision by the Supreme Court in May 2018 gave states the ability to legalize sports gambling. Local lawmakers jumped at the chance to carve into the illegal market.
If it passes both chambers, SB 552 will legalize sports gambling, including online and mobile gambling, in the entire state, as long as it’s done through an approved casino. According to Ali Bartlett Miranda, a lawyer who specializes in gambling law, the accessibility of legal mobile sports gambling will help attract commerce away from black market sources.
“Some have said that it’s the largest piece of gaming legislation that has moved though the legislature since we legalized casino gaming in Indiana,” Miranda said.
Legalization of sports gambling could lead to new commerce and funds for the state. The Indiana Gaming Commission, a neutral organization that neither supports nor opposes the implementation of sports gambling, published the document, “Presentation Notes, Eilers & Krejcik Indiana Sports Wagering Report Indiana Gaming Commission,” which suggested sports gambling could initially generate $225 million in total revenue, with online gambling comprising about half the funds. The gambling taxes could net the state $38 million per year.
“I think Indiana is a state where we have done very well fiscally, Miranda said. “We are great stewards of our state dollars. While this is not going to be a huge revenue impact, people appreciate every dollar of revenue going that’s coming into the state budget.”
The chances of the legislators passing SB 552 are strong. Ford noted when the bill was in committee it passed with 10 in favor and zero opposed.
“I would say right now that legislation, at least the sports betting part of that bill, has been very well received,” Miranda said. “I think that the legislators see the value in legislating sports betting.”
There also seems to be little resistance to sports gambling outside the statehouse. Christina Gray, executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, said the organization is neutral regarding bills legalizing different forms of gambling. However, Gray did add she would like to see funding for the treatment of problem gamblers in the conversation about gambling laws.
“Over the past 25 years Indiana has legalized many different forms of gambling but have failed to increase the amount of funds to treat problem gamblers,” Gray said via email. “Our hope is to receive more funds to help treat those who have a gambling problem, train treatment providers on problem gambling and educate the public to help in the prevention of problem gambling.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.