A gambling package on the table in Indiana underwent some significant changes on Wednesday during a House committee hearing. The unfortunate highlight was the stripping of mobile sports betting from the bill.
The legislation, which would currently only authorize brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, cleared the House Public Policy Committee by a 12-0 vote, sending it to the Ways and Means Committee.
In addition to removing statewide mobile from the bill, the amendment removed a provision for the state’s casinos to use official league data for in-game wagering. The data mandate is supported by the Indianapolis Colts. A data mandate is not a favorable regulation for the Hoosier State gaming industry.
Mobile going away?
The bill still has a ways to go before becoming law, but at this stage there won’t be any legal mobile wagering.
Indiana state Representative Ben Smaltz, chair of the Public Policy Committee, told his colleagues at the end of the roughly two-hour hearing that he’s worried about “having the tentacles of gaming coming to all our communities” under mobile sports betting.
Smaltz, a Republican, believes mobile should stay out of bill as it moves through House.
There wasn’t really any in-depth talk about mobile during the meeting (unlike the mobile discussion during the hearing last week), but there was some concern mentioned Wednesday about a lack of mobile making Indiana’s regulated market far from state of the art.
Should mobile not be reinserted, the unregulated market would score a serious win in Indiana. A plan to allow nonprofits to offer bracket-style betting contests actually generated far more conversation Wednesday than the amendment to strip the bill of internet betting.
Perhaps that’s because, as multiple sources tell Sports Handle, proponents of mobile sports betting who recognize that mobile accessibility is an imperative for a competitive, legal sports wagering marketplace, are playing the cards they’re dealt: Chairman Smaltz’s staunch opposition. And so the plan is to amend the bill to put it back in during the floor vote, sources say.
Gary casino changes
A significant amendment to put a $100 mm fee on moving a Gary riverboat casino onto land in downtown Gary was also approved. The owner of that casino is Spectacle Entertainment. The casino relocation has been opposed by some stakeholders in Northwest Indiana, including Penn National Gaming.
The other Gary license, also owned by Spectacle, would be relocated south to Vigo County. Under a previous version of the bill, Spectacle would have an inside track to securing a new casino in Terre Haute. Under the amendment, the process of awarding that license would be open to other operators.
The casino shakeup is the central component of the legislation, according to its backers. We’ll likely see what folks at Spectacle have to say about the changes during an upcoming hearing.
The silver lining of the hearing is that there seems to be some progress on the brick-and-mortar casino front, which increases the bill’s chances. The bulk of testimony on the bill through its history in the legislature this year has been on the changes to the brick-and-stick casino landscape, rather than sports wagering.
Timeline for Indiana
After clearing the hurdle Wednesday, SB 552 is one step closer to a full House vote. Should it be successful there, the Senate, which passed the measure last month, would need to sign off on the amendments.
The only deadline coming up is April 29, when the Indiana legislature is set to finish its session. There’s about a month left to sort through all the complexities of the bill that was once described by state Sen. Mark Messmer as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for Indiana.
The next hearing on the measure has not yet been scheduled.
This story has been updated from its original version to include additional information.