Committee Change Opens Pathway For Indiana Online Casino Bill

LAS VEGAS — The Indiana online casino bill failed to pass last year as the House Public Policy Committee chairman refused to schedule a hearing for it. However, this is not expected to be an issue in the upcoming year.

Rep. Ethan Manning, who plans to introduce the Indiana online casino bill in early January, has assumed control of the committee that initially receives all gaming bills.

Manning stated, “Last year, we encountered a roadblock that no longer exists this year, because I am now the new chairman of Public Policy in Indiana. This will undoubtedly aid our efforts as we commence a new legislative session.”

At the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) conference in Las Vegas, Manning and Sen. Jon Ford, a fervent supporter of online casinos in the Hoosier State, recently had a conversation with Play Indiana. Ford currently holds the position of president for NCLGS.

The previous chairman of the Public Policy Committee was a hindrance.

It was not a secret that Rep. Ben Smaltz, the chair of the Public Policy Committee in recent years, was opposed to online gaming.

In 2019, he eliminated the online element from the sports betting bill when it passed through his committee. However, Ford re-introduced online sports betting into the Senate legislation.

Smaltz transitioned to lead the Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee, providing the opportunity for Manning to step in for Public Policy. Manning, who co-sponsored the online casino bill last year, would have taken up the role of primary author had he not already hit his limit for bill introduction.

He warned that, despite his backing to push the bill through Public Policy, the online casino legislation won’t proceed without challenges.

Even though I serve as the chairman, we still face numerous challenges. The proposal still needs to pass through two committees. Even if it manages to pass through Public Policy, it still needs approval from the Ways and Means committee for the financial aspects, and then the Senate.

The inclusion of iLottery could potentially gain the support of the governor.

The legislature in neighboring Michigan simultaneously legalized sports betting, online casino, and online lottery. The inclusion of iLottery was instrumental in securing support from the governor.

This time, with a similar idea in mind, Ford and Manning decided to incorporate iLottery legalization into the online casino bill.

“Looking back, I would have implemented iGaming and sports betting simultaneously,” said Ford. “I believe the executive board will be in favor. They are interested in iLottery. Our studies indicate that iLottery and iGaming complement each other without undermining each other’s success.”

Additions regarding responsible gaming to Indiana’s online casino bill

Ford’s participation with NCLGS has stimulated his interest in enhancing responsible gaming in Indiana.

Besides allocating 3.33% of tax revenue towards problem gambling, he has also been collaborating with UNLV to enhance the methods the bill employs to address problem gambling.

He stated that he is contemplating donating money to the Indiana Gaming Commission for treating gaming addictions, instead of the Mental Health and Addiction Division.

Ford stated, “I am exploring strategies to restructure and ensure an increase in research and allocation of more funds to those in need. As gaming expands, we must acknowledge our responsibility to provide assistance. We can’t ignore the fact that there are individuals struggling with gaming problems.”

Manning added:

“Sen. Ford and I are heavily involved in promoting responsible gaming through this bill. I believe we can confidently state that it will represent the largest expansion of responsible gaming in Indiana’s history, considering both the revenue aspects and the improvements to our program.”

What is the next step for online casino initiatives in Indiana?

The Indiana legislative session progresses rapidly.

The deadline to file House bills is January 12. These bills must be read for the third time in the House by February 27. The Indiana legislature concludes its session by April 29.

The Senate appears to present a more challenging hurdle. Last year, Senate President Rodric Bray didn’t back the bill. However, this may have been influenced by the Spectacle Entertainment scandal, which has now been settled.

Ford stated, “These past two years have been quite long for us. We’ve faced challenges such as redistricting, controversial issues, and elections. I believe it made some of our leaders anxious about their re-election prospects. However, now that we’ve moved beyond that, I’m optimistic. We plan to initiate grassroots campaigns and solicit feedback from our constituents to understand their preferences.”

Manning stated that the additional motivation for lawmakers to support online casinos may be lacking, as the state doesn’t require the funds, given its $6 billion surplus. However, he is constantly seeking methods to boost revenue in order to reduce taxes.

The challenge definitely persists. We have some members who simply aren’t fans of gaming at all, and others who need to be educated about the issue. However, during casual discussions with my caucus members and Senate counterparts, I haven’t received any outright rejections yet. It’s likely that I might get some negative responses later on, but we’ll see how the situation unfolds.

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Matthew Kredell

Since 2007, Matthew has been covering the movements to legalize and regulate online gambling. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting started in 2010 when he wrote an article for Playboy Magazine discussing how the NFL’s opposition to the expansion of regulated sports betting was driving US money overseas. A graduate of USC’s journalism program, Matthew began his career as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News. He has since written on a myriad of topics for various publications including Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly, and

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