Indiana lawmaker will propose bill for legal sports betting

NCAA’s Presence Means Indiana Primed To Be Key Sports Betting Battlefront

NCAA Indiana sports betting
Indiana could provide an early look at how the legalization of sports betting progresses in the United States, or at least how the NCAA deals with the issue.

Rep. Alan Morrison indicated to the Indy Star and the Associated Press that he would be sponsoring a bill that would legalize sports betting should the federal ban be struck down.

That effort will come in the home of the NCAA, the collegiate athletics organization that has wholeheartedly opposed the legalization of sports wagering at every turn. It’s the title litigant in Christie vs. NCAA, the US Supreme Court case in which New Jersey is trying to offer sports gambling within its borders.

Indiana and sports betting?

Morrison will be one of the lawmakers pushing for legal sports betting in Indiana. Indiana is home to more than a dozen casinos and racinos, many of which would likely want to offer sports wagering should the federal ban be struck down in SCOTUS.

The problem is the effort from Morrison may — or likely will — face pushback from the NCAA.

Here’s what Morrison told the Indy Star:

“I understand where they’ll be coming from,” Morrison said. “But it’s also important for the NCAA to understand that the landscape of gaming is changing throughout our country. I think they would hopefully have some understanding that Indiana would have rights just like the other states.”

Indiana and the DFS example

Indiana is notable as one of the first movers for daily fantasy sports legislation in the US. It was the second state to pass a law regulating paid-entry fantasy sports in 2016; there are now a total of 18 states with such laws.

Morrison helped to spearhead that effort, and will look to help his state be an early adopter in sports betting as well.

Interestingly, the NCAA successfully lobbied to have DFS contests based on college events excluded from the Indiana law. That came largely from an agreement with DraftKings and FanDuel. Those two DFS companies are largely responsible for the passage of the fantasy sports laws around the country.

Can the NCAA do to sports betting what it did to DFS?

While the NCAA won a relatively easy victory in stopping college DFS, it is not going to find such an easy path to stopping either:

Why not? For one thing, the interests pushing sports betting around the country are far more varied than what the NCAA encountered in DFS. It can’t just come to a detente with two companies a la DFS and expect the same blueprint to work around the country.

At a minimum, it would have to strike a deal with the American Gaming Association, which seems to want nothing to do with what the NCAA might want. Here’s the president of the AGA on “carveouts” that would prohibit college sports betting.

The idea that it can ban championship events in any state the passes a sports betting law seems increasingly unlikely. For instance, Pennsylvania and New York already have sports betting laws waiting in the wings.

The NCAA’s strategy may become visible quickly

If Indiana moves to legalize sports wagering in the event of SCOTUS striking down PASPA in the NJ sports betting case, we’ll know soon.

The Indiana legislature starts its session in January, and it wraps up its work in March.

The NCAA so far has not returned requests for comment about Indiana to the above media outlets. We’ll likely learn how vocal of an opponent of the NCAA will be of Morrison’s legislation — or if it can win a carveout for college sports. If not in Indiana, the NCAA will have to weigh in in one of the many states that will consider legalization in 2018.

While the NCAA would like to hope and wait for a win in the SCOTUS case, it may not have that luxury.

Image credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.