To Mobile Or Not To Mobile?

Hold The Phone: Mobile Still Out Of Indiana Sports Betting Bill Ahead Of Committee Hearing

Indiana sports betting

A Senate sponsor of the Indiana sports betting bill hopes to get mobile wagering back into the legislation. But it won’t happen Tuesday when S 552 is up for an amend and vote in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Sen. Jon Ford tells Legal Sports Report that the effort to get online betting back in the bill will occur on the House floor, or more likely in conference committee if the bill passes.

A conference committee is convened to resolve differences in a bill if the second chamber makes changes to a bill with which the original passer doesn’t concur.

“I was disappointed that mobile was taken out,” Ford said. “I think it was a big win for the illegal sports wagering market to have mobile pulled out, but I hope to work on that issue as the bill moves forward to get the language back in.

“I think the majority of folks in the House — including some members of House leadership — believe we need to have mobile.”

Black market questioned in IN sports betting

Public Policy Committee Chairman Ben Smaltz stripped the bill of mobile wagering, despite hearing from stakeholders that online betting is needed to capture the black market.

Smaltz told LSR he questions the size of a black market and didn’t see a connection in having mobile wagering to solve an unknown problem for Indiana sports betting.

Ford pointed to a report by Eilers & Krejcik on the Indiana sports betting market last October requested by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

“I think there’s clearly a black market,” Ford said. “We’ve seen it all across the country that there’s plenty of proof of a black market. Are we going to get 100 percent of the black market taken away? No. But the goal of the legislation to me is to keep barriers as low as possible and transactions as easy as possible. That’s where mobile comes in.”

He added:

“Here in Indiana, what I tell my colleagues is we made a policy decision 27 years ago that we’re going to be a gaming state. The gaming industry evolves, and this is just one part of the evolution. We need to embrace it because all states around us have legislation for sports wagering, and I believe all of them have mobile in them.”

Official data taking a pit stop

Removal of language requiring use of official data for in-game wagers is the other sports betting change made by the Public Policy Committee.

Ford noted that he already dialed back that language, making the data mandate only for in-game betting as a compromise.

However, he contended that Indiana is in a unique position as the headquarters for IndyCar racing, which argued at a hearing last month that its data is not public and is proprietary.

Ford doesn’t expect a fully official data requirement to make its way back into the Indiana sports betting bill, but said he could see a carve out for IndyCar data.

Other changes in Indiana sports betting

The legislation passed by the Senate included other gambling industry expansions and changes that were tweaked by the committee.

Ford responded to some of the changes:

  • He will advocate for the licensing fees added for Gary riverboat casinos to move inland to be converted to minimum investments into the new locations.
  • He thinks it’s important to reinstate the lowering of the tax rate for table games to compete with neighboring states that have an advantage in tax structure.
  • He foresees some of “hold harmless” clauses protecting other casinos and regions from the Gary riverboat casinos move to be put back in.

Where Indiana sports betting bill goes now

All legislation in Indiana needs to advance through the committee level and on to the chamber floor by Tuesday. The Ways and Means Committee will add a tax rate to the bill.

The Indiana legislative session must conclude by April 29, though lawmakers expect to be done by April 25.

“If they send us the bill like it is, we can consent or concur, but I don’t think that will happen,” Ford said. “It’s pretty much destined for conference committee at this point.”

Despite the House committee changes thus far, Ford feels good about the IN sports betting bill.

“I think we’ve got it at a good spot,” Ford said. “We’ll have some form of sports wagering done. Differences to get worked out in conference committee most of the time. I think we all knew coming into the legislative session that this bill was going to be one of the last bills we get done.”

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew began writing about legislative efforts to regulate online poker in 2007 after UIGEA interfered with his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker while working as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. Covering the topic for Bluff Magazine, PokerNews and now Online Poker Report, he has interviewed four U.S. Congressmen and 20+ state legislators. His poker writing has been cited by The Atlantic, Politico.com and CNN.com. A freelance writer based in Los Angeles, Matt has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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