Inside INdiana Business

Online casino bill introduced as Indiana sportsbook hits record

(photo courtesy of Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana’s gaming industry hit a new high as it closed out 2020, but it is also beginning 2021 with a new bill to expand the industry in the Hoosier state.

State Senator Jon Ford, a Terre Haute Republican, has introduced legislation that would legalize online casino betting.

Senate Bill 417 would allow Indiana’s 14 casinos and racinos to offer internet casino games and online poker. This includes the planned Rocksino in Terre Haute, Ford’s hometown. The casinos would need to apply for an additional license.

The move comes as the Indiana Gaming Commission releases the results of the December sportsbook. Commission data shows sports betting took in $313 million last month, shattering the previous handle record of $251 million set in November.

“A lot went right this fall for sportsbooks, and it was on full display in December,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “The Indianapolis Colts, Notre Dame and Indiana football all continued to attract significant wagering. Then a full month of college basketball, which is more important in Indiana than almost anywhere else, and the start of the NBA season added a year-end boost.”

Wellman says the sports wagering generated $2.3 million in tax revenue for December. For the year, Indiana’s retail and online sportsbooks produced $13.2 million for Indiana.

Since launching in October 2019, Indiana’s sportsbooks have produced $2.2 billion in wagers.

“2020 was a phenomenal year for sports betting in Indiana, which continued to break their own records month over month,” said Max Bichsel, group vice president of U.S. business for Gambling.com. “Mobile betting was integral to the success of the market and will continue to grow its market share in 2021, likely growing to represent over 90% of all bets placed.”

Despite the record numbers brought in by sports betting, analysts say the handle is dwarfed by the money brought in by online casino games in states where both are legal.

“More is bet every month, and the win is more predictable with far fewer fluctuations from month to month,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayIndiana. “For a state like Indiana, such a dependable revenue source is unquestionably attractive.”

Also this week at the Indiana Statehouse, State Senator Susan Glick, an Indianapolis Republican, introduced Senate Bill 267, which would authorize wagering on video gaming terminals. That measure is separate from the bill brought by Ford.

PlayIndiana.com reports Ford was hesitant to include online poker when he released his first draft of the bill last fall. But colleagues and industry officials convinced him to add it to the mobile gaming bill.

“They didn’t think it would be as big an issue as I thought it will be,” said Ford. “But we’ll see. I’m taking the approach that if it’s a problem, I can always take it out.”

Ford hopes to get a hearing for the bill this month in the Senate Public Policy Committee.

He says online wagering could generate $65million-$80 million in annual tax revenue for Indiana.

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