Indiana Legislator Pursues iGaming Bill

Indiana state Senator Jon Ford said he’s working on language for an online casino bill he plans to introduce in 2021. But he cautioned there’s no guarantee the legislature could take it up; in fact, he said due to Covid-19, the session could be delayed until March and limited to the budget, pushing the iGaming bill back by a year.

Still, Ford presses forward. He noted, “With Covid-19, we’re still at 50 percent capacity at our casinos. I have no idea when that might be lifted. If we had iGaming, it would give those casinos a way to drive revenue for them and the state.”

The legislation would not include online poker, Ford said, because it’s more complicated and would require more discussion time. “When we get into online poker, there’s pooling and interstate compacts,. That may take more education to inform my colleagues than we’ll have time for next year. They’re still trying to understand in-play bets.” However, he added, “If my colleagues surprise me, we’ll be ready to go with everything.”

Ford said online casino gambling in Indiana would have similar structure as sports betting; he was instrumental in the passage of that legislation in 2019. The state’s 13 casinos would be allowed to apply for a license and partner with up to three mobile providers. Ford added he would have urged his colleagues to pursue online gaming even if Covid-19 never happened. “I think we need to do it because Michigan will have iGaming soon and we need to look at alternatives to help our casinos,” he stated.

Ford recalled some of his conservative colleagues, like House Public Policy Committee Chairman Ben Smaltz, were not comfortable with online sports betting. “There were some folks who didn’t want people to bet online and bet in their home. There will be some people who think online gambling is a big expansion of gaming in a conservative state. There’s still quite a few people that think that way.”

However, Ford stated the success of online sports betting—which surpassed $1 billion in handle in Indiana last month–will help him pass his iGaming bill. He said, “I think our success with online sports wagering and the demographics we’re attracting with it show there’s a whole group out there that we’re not touching. There’s a younger demographic that does not like to go to brick-and-mortar casinos, but they’re gambling online anyway. So if we can bring them into a regulated market, it gives casinos the opportunity to market to them and get their business.”

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