Indiana Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Sports Betting

In this March 22, 2019 photo, customers watch a game during the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana has joined the rapidly expanding number of states that will allow sports betting after Governor Eric Holcomb signed a sweeping gambling bill into law Wednesday.

The Republican governor signed House Bill 1015, which could take effect as soon as September and will allow adults 21 and older to place bets on sporting events. It also opens the door for two new possible casinos in the cities of Terre Haute and Gary.

“By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers,” Holcomb said in a statement Wednesday. “Additionally, it will bring in new revenue and create hundreds of new jobs – both permanent and in construction. I will direct the Indiana Gaming Commission to monitor for potential effects of this bill so that we can make necessary changes in future legislative sessions.”

Besides simply allowing bets at casinos, the new law gives bettors the ability to place wagers on their smartphone or other mobile devices.

Other parts of the new law prohibit wagering on video game competitions also known as e-sports, and outline a process to withhold delinquent child support payments from a parent’s sports gambling winnings.

While he initially supported the bill, it was not certain that Holcomb would sign it after he took time to review last minute changes made by the state house.

Some of the final changes included the cities of East Chicago, Hammond, Michigan City, and Evansville receiving possible payments to offset tax revenue hits from new casinos.

In addition, the new law moves up the timetable for horse tracks in the cities of Anderson and Shelbyville to add table games with live dealers as soon as Jan. 1, 2020.

The bill had bipartisan support, passing the Indiana House of Representatives by a margin of 59-36 and the state Senate 37-12.    

Indiana’s new law makes it the 10th state to legalize sports betting, and more states look to join the fray soon. A similar bill in Iowa just needs Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature to become law.

The Iowa bill allows gamblers age 21 or older to wager on professional and college games and other sporting events. It cleared its last legislative hurdle on April 22 when the Iowa House voted 67-31 to approve the measure that passed April 17 in the state Senate by a vote of 31-18.

Iowans would be able to wager on professional sporting events, including motor races, college sports and fantasy sports – games where outcomes are determined by statistical performances of individual athletes.

Wagering would not be allowed on semi-professional sporting events, international events such as the Olympics, and internationally sanctioned soccer. Nor would betting be allowed on the performance of an individual athlete participating in a single game or match of an Iowa college sporting event, or the performance of an athlete under age 18 in an international event.

The Iowa bill is opposed by some religious groups and some lawmakers who fear it would encourage gambling addictions. It saw bipartisan support, and opposition, in both chambers.

State lawmakers pushing the legislation argued, however, that gambling already happens on sporting events, but it is not regulated or taxed by the state like other forms of betting in Iowa. 

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, made that argument during the floor debate. 

“This is an industry that is here. This bill regulates it, taxes it and polices it,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa’s governor has not tipped her hand on whether she intendeds to sign the bill, and a February poll by the Register found that 52% of respondents said they oppose legalized betting on professional sporting events, while 40% were in favor. Just 25% said they approved of gambling on college sports.

In Montana, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock singed a new law on May 3 that took effect immediately and gives the state’s lottery the ability to regulate sports gambling through kiosks and mobile applications.

The law will allow certain licensed bars and restaurants to operate gambling kiosks and allow patrons to use mobile applications while inside the establishments to place bets.

Bullock was actually sent two sports gambling bills. He vetoed a second bill that would have allowed private businesses to run the sports gambling, which would have been regulated by the state’s Justice Department.

In his veto letter, Bullock said he favored the lottery bill because of the lottery’s established infrastructure and the fact that it is already heavily regulated.

“The lottery has operated successfully for 30 years with strong oversight and in a heavily regulated environment while protecting economic benefits to the state,” Bullock wrote.

“As Montana enters this new market, the lottery’s proven track record of responsibility and integrity makes it the best choice to govern our first foray into sports wagering.”

The move by states to legalizing sports gambling was made possible by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibited gambling on sporting events but made an exception for four states that had already set up sports lotteries. 

The high court held that the prohibition on state authorization of sports gambling violated the Constitution’s anti-commandeering doctrine under the 10th Amendment, which provides that Congress cannot compel states to enact and enforce a federal regulation.

The NCAA is also loosening its own attitude towards sports gambling, as it has done away with a rule prohibiting championship events from being held in gambling-friendly states.

While the passing of these laws has been heralded as financial boons, they are only expected to bring modest returns to the states.

Iowa’s proposed law would tax net gambling revenues at 6.75%, which would generate an estimated $2.3 million to $4 million a year, according to the Associated Press.

In Montana, lottery officials estimate that people will wager roughly $65 million within the first year, with about $3.7 million of that going back to the state. There are varying estimates in Indiana, as one study places the annual tax revenue figure between $3.4 and $20.3 million.

These predictions come on the heels of a report published by the Associated Press in April that shows lower than expected revenues in four states that have recently allowed sports betting.

Tennessee is also poised to allow sports betting. Republican Governor Bill Lee said he opposes the bill but will allow it to become law without his signature.

In Colorado, lawmakers have authorized a November ballot question that will ask voters to decide if sports gambling should be legal in the state.

Rox Laird contributed to this report.

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