Casino Rep Discusses What Went Wrong With Online Casino Effort

Prior to this legislative session, the Casino Association of Indiana invested significant effort in enlightening lawmakers about the advantages of legalizing online casinos.

The Association, in collaboration with iDEA Growth, UNLV, and Sen. Jon Ford, conducted several webinars to address queries and familiarize lawmakers with the issue.

The online casino did not even receive a hearing in the 2022 legislative session.

In a discussion with Play Indiana, President and CEO Matt Bell spoke about the challenges faced in progressing the internet gaming bill this year.

“Bell expressed disappointment that the industry was unable to make progress this year, stating, ‘It’s obviously disappointing. We believe that the online space is a crucial component of our future.'”

Challenges Encountered by Online Casinos in 2022

On January 11, House Bill 1356 was filed by Reps. Ethan Manning and Doug Gutwein. However, two weeks later, the bill failed to pass as it did not leave the House Public Policy Committee before the deadline.

Bell believed that the short session presented the biggest challenge. The Senate Public Policy Committee convened only once prior to the deadline for bills to cross over, while the House Public Policy Committee met on two occasions.

He also believed that the ongoing investigation into Spectacle Entertainment’s former gaming operators in Indiana continued to overshadow the effort.

The Senate leadership didn’t want to deal with the bill before the investigation concluded, so Ford forwarded it to the House.

Bell stated, “The looming investigations made lawmakers hesitant to progress with the bill. There were rumors of potential further involvement. Even though I believe these rumors were unfounded, they negatively affected how some legislative leaders viewed the bill. They aim to ensure that any additional misconduct within the industry is addressed and put behind us.”

He acknowledged Ford, Manning, and Rep. Alan Morrison as legislative leaders for the issue.

“Bell said, “The increasing number of advocates we have is a good sign for the future.”

Convincing one lawmaker to change their mind

The bill failed to progress in the House due to the hesitations of Rep. Ben Smaltz, the chair of the Public Policy Committee, regarding mobile gaming. As a result, he never scheduled it for a hearing.

In 2019, Smaltz eliminated the mobile feature from the sports wagering bill during his committee’s review. However, Ford managed to reintroduce it when the bill was in the Senate.

However, Smaltz did permit the bill to advance, and Bell believes he will be more inclined to do the same for an online casino in a complete session.

“I believe he still holds substantial doubts about online gaming. However, I value Rep. Smaltz’s approach, as seen in the sports betting debate; he let his caucus debate the issue rather than suppressing the discussion. He openly expressed his opposition and even voted against it due to the mobile aspect, but he didn’t actively attempt to stop it.”

Bell hopes that Smaltz will once again permit his colleagues to debate the issue when the bill likely needs to be presented in front of Smaltz’s committee next year.

“Bell expressed, “I anticipate encountering a similar challenge in persuading him to authorize iGaming. However, the presence of a fair and thorough chairman can make a significant difference.”

Hopes for Indiana online casino to pass in 2023.

Indiana will host a legislative session running until the end of April next year, during which lawmakers will formulate a budget.

Budget years usually prioritize revenue bills. However, Indiana enjoys a financially favorable situation with a reserve of $5 billion. Hence, there is no usual pressing need to generate new revenue streams.

Bell stated that the Indiana Casino Association would persist in collaborating with iDEA Growth to enlighten lawmakers throughout the upcoming year.

Despite Indiana not advancing in the legalization of online gambling this year, it appears that no other state is poised to achieve this in 2022. Similarly, Iowa’s proposed bill failed to make it out of committee.

Indiana could potentially emerge as a leader among states legalizing online casinos post-pandemic next year.

Bell, with a rich history in Indiana as a state representative and chairman of the Indiana Gaming Commission, remains hopeful about future endeavors. His optimism stems from the minimal resistance he experiences from lawmakers regarding the concept of an online casino.

“Bell said, ‘I believe most of the objections to the measure are more about timing, rather than the legislation itself, which I find to be a positive thing.”

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Matthew Kredell

Since 2007, Matthew has been reporting on the attempts to legalize and regulate online gambling. His coverage of sports betting legalization started in 2010 when he wrote an article for Playboy Magazine, discussing how the NFL’s resistance to the expansion of regulated sports betting was sending US money abroad. Matthew, a USC journalism graduate, began his professional journey as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News. He has also written on diverse topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly, and

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