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Indiana lawmakers recommend legalizing sports betting

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers in a summer study committee on Friday voted unanimously to recommend legalizing sports betting during the next legislative session.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the green light to allow sports betting, and the issue was chosen for discussion by lawmakers this summer.  

“We want to be able to have our casinos offer what they can, especially with sports wagering, to keep them competitive,” State Rep. Alan Morrison, a Republican from Brazil, said Friday.  

Morrison is working on legislation to legalize sports betting, including via cellphone. Lawmakers also talked about possible security considerations for betting, including registering in person at a casino with several forms of identification.

“We certainly don’t want either underage folks or people stealing other folks’ identity and being able to place wagers that ultimately are illegal,” Morrison said on Friday. 

Christina Gray, executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, said the council is neutral but she is concerned that legalizing sports betting could open the door to issues for people with a gambling addiction.

Gray would like to see lawmakers include some resources to deal with those concerns. 

“One of them (resources) is that one percent of the tax revenue go to the prevention and treatment of problem gambling,” Gray said. 

State Rep. Vanessa Summers, a Democrat from Indianapolis, was undecided on Friday: “It all boils down to: It’s a lot. It’s easy. And what are the safeguards?” 

When asked if he would be hearing sports betting bills in the next legislative session, State Rep. Ben Smaltz of Auburn, who serves as Republican Committee Chairman, said: “We’ll wait until all the information’s in. It’s really important through this process to maintain an open mind and listen to what people have to say.” 

Morrison said he was confident he would get a hearing and have bipartisan support for the issue in the 2019 session.

Morrison said if his bill gets a hearing, passes through the House and Senate and is signed into law, he hoped to have sports betting in place statewide by September 2019 to coincide with the start of football season.