Indiana Governor Expected To Sign Gambling Bill
The Indiana Senate recently passed HB 2015 in a 37-12 vote; the House passed it 59-36. The comprehensive gambling bill legalizes sports betting at the state’s casinos, racinos and off-track betting facilities, among other provisions. The measure now goes to Governor Eric Holcomb who is expected to sign it.
Mobile sports betting was removed from the measure a few weeks ago but it was put back in just 48 hours before the bill passed. State Rep. Terri Austin said, “To me, this is being progressive, and it’s recognizing that in a free market, you had better stay on your toes or you’re going to be left behind.”
Sports betting adjusted gross revenue would be taxed at 9.5 percent. The measure also would ban betting on eSports or amateur athletes under the age of 18. Operators would pay a $100,000 license fee with an annual renewal of $50,000.
The legislation does not include an integrity fee or royalty, but it gives the Indiana Gaming Commission the option to require using official league data for in-game wagering.
Indiana now joins Montana and Iowa in waiting for governors to sign sports betting legislation into law.
The bill also will allow the one of the Majestic Star casinos, owned by Spectacle Entertainment, to move inland for $20 million; originally the fee would have been $100 million. Some lawmakers and officials were unhappy about the decrease. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Spectacle owner Rod Ratcliff “played it like a master. All the steak dinners, all the airplane flights, all the convention center work, it all paid off for him. The legislature got bought out, the governor got bought out, the speaker of the House got bought out, everybody got a piece. A $100 million transfer fee goes down to $20 million. Rod Ratcliff saved $80 million. The whole thing is very shady. The whole thing is very corrupt.”
According to Indiana Campaign Finance records, Holcomb did not receive any individual contributions from Ratcliff during his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. However, Holcomb did accept two flights in Ratcliff’s private jet. In fact, prior to the passage of the bill, at a press conference scheduled with just 23 minutes’ notice at the Indiana state capitol, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson hoped to shift attention from those flights to how new casinos would benefit their cities’ economies.
“We want to continue to make sure that everyone stays focused on the economic development opportunities, not only in Gary and Terre Haute, but the entire state of Indiana,” said Bennett, who has been promoting a casino in Terre Haute for three years.
Also, Spectacle will have to surrender its other casino license, which will be offered in a bidding process for a casino in Terre Haute in Vigo County. But first Vigo County voters would have to approve a ballot referendum to allow a casino. That vote could occur during next month’s primary or the November election.
Negotiators were able to settle differences regarding helping cities that might be impacted by the new casinos. Under the agreed-upon deal, Gary will make payments to Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City from its expected growth in casino taxes; the selected Terre Haute casino operator will make payments to Evansville over three years.
The legislation also allows racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville to have live table games starting January 1, 2020—18 months earlier than allowed under current law.