Both Indiana Online Gaming Bills Fail to Pass

Man Throwing His Hands Up In Defeat And Roulette On A Laptop

Despite some optimism from pro-gambling legislators to start the year, Indiana legislators failed to pass two online gambling bills this session. Both HB 1356 and HB 1337 did not garner enough support in Indiana’s legislature to pass. Similar bills have failed to pass in previous years. Despite the success of Indiana’s sports betting operators, lawmakers can not come to an agreement regarding online casino operations.

The bills themselves would have allowed licensed operators to run online gaming options. Many other US states already allow iGaming operators. Proponents of the Indiana iGaming bills have argued that the industry is trending toward online gaming options. With the bills failing to pass, gaming operators are limited to offering only in-person betting options.

There are several reasons why the bills did not pass this session. Ultimately, it seems to have boiled down to a lack of support in a shortened session. This is not the first time that gaming legislation has died on the floor. Sen. Jon Ford has been trying to push gaming bills through since 2020.

Ford and his supporters are still encouraged about the future of their efforts. Pro-gambling legislators have focused on educating other lawmakers about the gaming industry to garner support. Ford is hopeful to have more success next session. With more time to educate others and more time in the session, pro-gambling legislators should have more success.

What Were HB 1356 and HB 1337?

The two Indiana gaming bills in question would have allowed licensed operators in the state to operate online gaming sites. In Indiana, licensed operators are limited to riverboat casinos and racetracks. HB 1356 was authored by Rep. Doug Gutwein, with Rep. Ethan Manning listed as a co-author. Meanwhile, HB 1337 was written by Rep. Alan Morrison.

Despite having different authors, the two bills share a lot of common features. Both bills would have allowed riverboat casinos and racetracks to have iGaming operations. They also would have imposed an adjusted gross receipts tax on iGaming operations of 18%.

There were also some key differences between the two bills. Namely, HB 1337 would have repealed several statutes currently in place. For instance, HB 1337 would have repealed the following:

  • Language concerning specific circumstances that result in supplemental payment to Hammond, Michigan City, and East Chicago
  • The existing historic hotel distance community fee
  • The requirement that Vigo County riverboat operators make payments to the city of Evansville

Sen. Jon Ford has proposed similar gaming bills in the past. Ford’s proposed bills in 2020 and 2021 also failed to garner enough support from other legislatures. The House Bills did not pass this session. However, iGaming proponents could have another chance in the senate this April.

Why did Indiana’s Online Casino Bills Fail?

To pass in the senate, the iGaming legislation would have to address the issues that stopped the House Bills from passing. There are several contributing factors that led to the downfalls of HB 1356 and HB 1337. Perhaps the biggest reason the bills did not pass is that the timing was just not right.

In Indiana, the legislative sessions run shorter on even years. As a result, it is typically very difficult to pass new laws in even years. Another factor working against the iGaming bills was that it is an election year. Also, Indiana is projected to have $5 billion in excess revenue. Legislators were not pressured by financial motives to pass the bills.

The iGaming bills failing to pass is disheartening for many proponents in the state. However, the Senate has a chance to pass their bill later this year. If the Senate also fails to pass an iGaming bill, the next legislative session could present a better chance for iGaming bills.

A 2023 session would not be in an election year. It would also be a longer session since it is an odd year. It will also give legislators who are pursuing the bills more time to prepare for the next round of voting.

What Will Gaming Proponents do Now?

Indiana legislators hoping for new iGaming laws will now turn their attention to the Senate. Sen. Jon Ford introduced a bill last month, SB 417, that would authorize iGaming. Under Ford’s bill, all 14 of the licensed casinos and racetracks in Indiana could apply for an interactive gaming license.

Ford’s bill is similar to the house bills in that it includes an 18% tax on gross receipts from interactive gaming. The senator’s bill also includes provisions such as:

  • $500,000 initial interactive gaming license application fee. $50,000 annual renewal fee.
  • Licensed casinos can partner with up to 3 online brands
  • Online brand partners have an initial licensing fee of $100,000. $25,000 annual renewal fee.
  • 3% of gaming revenue tax is for local governments
  • 33% tax revenue collected by the state goes toward the Addiction Services Fund
The current SB 417 bill also includes the allowance of online poker. Ford previously drafted a bill that did not allow online poker for fears it would have more opposition for other legislators.

Outside of SB 417, there are other things that proponents can focus on. The biggest of which is educating other lawmakers about the positives of online gaming. Indiana legislators have worked with the Casino Association of Indiana, iDEA Growth, and UNLV to help sway lawmakers to vote for an online casino bill.

Conclusion

Hopes of a new online casino bill in Indiana are off to a rocky start. The Indiana legislature failed to pass HB 1356 and HB 1337. Lawmakers in Indiana have struggled to craft an iGaming bill for several years, so the defeat is not unexpected. Other factors, such as the length of the session and the pending elections later this year, also likely contributed to the bills not passing.

Now, iGaming proponents will turn their efforts toward the senate. Sen. Jon Ford introduced SB 417. Ford’s bill would allow all 14 of Indiana’s casinos and racetracks to apply for online casino licenses. Ford has expressed optimism about the success of the bill. The state senator has worked for months to craft the bill. Ford even ran the bull by several other Indiana lawmakers to address any potential roadblocks before it was introduced.

Ford and his supporters are hoping they can pass an iGaming bill by the time the session ends in April. In the meantime, proponents of online gambling will continue to work with other agencies to build support for their cause. Ford and other lawmakers have brought in the Casino Association of Indiana and even UNLV, among others, to help build support.