Lawmaker On New Indiana Sports Betting Bill: ‘Extremely Shortsighted’ If Online Wagering Not In Final Law

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Indiana sports betting 2018

Indiana is quickly gearing up its attempt to legalize sports betting in the state, as bills will formally be introduced in the state legislature on Monday.

The effort is one of many cropping up around the country as the US Supreme Court case about the federal sports betting ban awaits a verdict in the first half of 2018. A victory for the state of New Jersey in Christie vs. NCAA could mean other states could legalize sports gambling.

What we know about the sports betting bill so far

A Senate version of the sports wagering bill — S 405 — was prefiled on Friday; more on that from the Indy Star. A version is expected to be filed by Rep. Alan Morrison in the House soon.

Legal Sports Report spoke with Morrison on Thursday. He said that the gaming industry in the state is largely on board with the idea of sports wagering. That’s backed up by the Indy Star’s conversation with Matt Bell, CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana:

“We have to be reasonable in the way we address sports betting and its taxation as well, both in terms of entry into the market and how we tax it as a state,” Bell said. “Its benefit is that it will be driving customers to a property who wouldn’t be there, who will spend incrementally in other ways. That’s where the state will realize a benefit.”

Morrison also indicated that he would seek to have mobile wagering be a part of a final bill and that it appears in the initial version.

Morrison was the sponsor of daily fantasy sports legislation enacted in 2016.

The NCAA — headquartered in the state — has not indicated its position on the bill.

What’s in the Indiana sports betting bill?

Here’s the synopsis of the sports betting bill in the Senate:

Authorizes sports wagering at riverboats, racinos, and satellite facilities after the Indiana gaming commission determines that current federal prohibitions on sports wagering are no longer applicable. Provides for the administration, conduct, and taxation of sports wagering. Imposes initial and annual fees on a licensed owner, operating agent, or permit holder conducting sports wagering.

 What else do we know from the Senate version?
  • The bill directs the state’s gaming commission to adopt rules and standards for the conduct of sports wagering. Rules must be enacted within 90 days after it’s made possible at the federal level.
  • It does not prohibit betting on collegiate events.
  • Bettors must be 21 years of age.
  • Allows licensed operators to provide sports betting as an “interactive form of gaming” (ie online or mobile).
  • Licensing = $500,000 or one percent of revenue, whichever is greater
  • Tax = 9.25 percent of revenue plus a flat $75,000 annually

House sponsor talks sports betting

Here is LSR‘s conversation with Morrison on the sports wagering bill:

Legal Sports Report: What can you tell me about the lay of the land for the sports betting in Indiana and the prospects for passage of a bill?

Morrison: So my test balloon for this kind of was three years ago I guess [a bill in the House about sports betting in 2015]. It was pretty evident looking at PASPA and some of the actions New Jersey was taking and listening to some of the other folks at the federal level that we were kind of creeping toward the situation that we’re in now, where that case has worked its way to the Supreme Court. And most observers are leaning towards it’s going to be a favorable ruling for those who would like to see sports wagering outside of the state of Nevada.

So what I am attempting to do with my bill in Indiana, and what I would like to see us do as a legislature, is just give our properties the option that if and when the federal law is overturned or deemed unconstitutional that we can offer sports wagering in our properties and the satellite properties. So we’re not trying to overstep our bounds and ignore federal law. But at the same time we want to say that we can take that step if and when it happens.

A big part of the bill will be the infrastructure for our gaming commission and how it is administered and then obviously some other regulatory aspects just to make sure that the properties and the people partaking in it are following rules.

LSR: Has there been any groundwork on this previously in Indiana, or is everyone kind of learning on the fly?

Morrison: It’s kind of learning on the fly right now, we’re getting people together. The bill will probably be filed on Monday, and that will really kind of start our education process. But I’m starting to line up some different entities that will be interested in it and will probably help out.

But the education process, that groundwork that you’re talking about is extremely important. Let’s face it, sports wagering is not on the mind of a majority of the legislators in this state or any state. It’s something that some of us are interested in but not most.

So there will certainly be an education process, but I do think we can get it done. I have medium to high hopes that we can hopefully get it in committee, and get a hearing and start to make some progress on it.

LSR: The NCAA is in Indianapolis, and it has been traditionally opposed sports betting. Can you tell me anything about what they are thinking and what they might do moving forward?

Morrison: So two years ago I had a conversation with them, and obviously they take a pretty hard stance against sports wagering and I respect that. And we understand how important the NCAA is to the state and Indianapolis specifically.

But I would like to think moving forward they would have a conversation with us. I am sure that we will at some point. Because they see the landscape changing. There’s a conversation still to be had.

I can’t assume exactly what they’ll say and speak for them but I do think when you look nationally at what is happening — and I’ll use NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver as a pretty good example — they’ve made it pretty clear that it’s something that’s going to change. So there may be some peer pressure there. And maybe there’s a way to turn it into a positive for these groups.

LSR: Can you give me a preview of the bill? It sounds like the regulation and implementation will be handled via casinos and licensees. Will it be online at all?

The taxation and implementation will come through our gaming commission. And in the bill I will submit we’ll have taxation and a $75,000 fee, and that just mirrors current law for our casinos right now. So we’re just trying to be consistent with that.

And when you look at what some other states that are starting to think about doing this as well, I think one of the things we do in Indiana, we try to keep taxes and fees low.

As far as mobile, that’s an important part of it, and I certainly have that in the bill, and basically we’d have a geofence on the border of Indiana. While you’re in the state, you can partake, and once you cross the border, then the betting aspect of the app would shut down.

LSR: That technology has obviously worked with daily fantasy sports, and that was in a law you passed a couple of years ago.

Morrison: That technology might be scary to some people, but for us to implement this and not to have the mobile aspect to it, it would be extremely shortsighted. You’re hard-pressed to go anywhere in public and not see every age group on their phones partaking in commerce or entertainment. I don’t think it would be very intelligent for us to move forward without mobile as part of the bill.

LSR: Our casinos on board with this, is it something they universally want to do?

Morrison: Yes. This is something our properties would be very excited about. They want to make sure some of the finer points are worked out and it lands where they are comfortable with. But this is something that will have pretty good support from the industry in Indiana.

Eric Ramsey contributed to this report.