Yesterday, the Indiana Senate passed what is considered to be one of the largest proposed expansions of the local gambling sector so far.
The measure, called Senate Bill 552, would make legal sports betting in the state and would permit a Gary casino license to change its location. In addition, the proposed piece of legislation will remove a limit of in-state casinos that could be owned by a gambling operator and will allow horse racing casinos to start using live dealers for table games sooner than initially planned.
The bill was passed in the Indiana Senate by 38 to 11 votes. The bill’s supporters were not willing to describe the proposed measure as an expansion of gambling in order not to provoke local lawmakers who have been reluctant to embrace such an expansion. Still, Senate Bill 552 could face some challenges at the House, as it is really the biggest since so-called racinos (horse racing casinos) were permitted to implement slot machines in 2007.
BREAKING: Sports gambling and casino bill has passed the Indiana Senate. This bill would legalize sports gambling as well as putting actual card games in Shelbyville & Anderson if Governor signs it. #INLegis @93wibc pic.twitter.com/ZPidjb9Rfz
— Hammer and Nigel (@hammerandnigel) February 26, 2019
House Speaker Brian Bosma commented on the progress of the measure, sharing his surprise that the bill had managed to pass the Senate. He, however, also said that there is no way of allowing a new casino facility in the state could not be called an expansion.
Gary Licenses Relocation and Sports Betting to Be Allowed by SB 552
The part of Senate Bill 552 which has received most review and consideration is the provision under which one of the two casino licenses in the city of Gary would be able to move to Terre Haute in order to provide Gary’s Buffington Harbor with new chances for economic development. For the time being, both licenses are owned by one gambling operator and are used to running two riverboat casinos situated in close proximity to each other.
The present form of the bill will provide other casino owners with the chance to compete for the Terre Haute license. Still, there are no guarantees that the provision will be kept in the final form of Senate Bill 552.
The bill’s supporters commented that the above-mentioned provision could not be considered an expansion of gambling, as it is more of an opportunity to boost the already existing casino assets in Indiana.
As mentioned above, Senate Bill 552 also seeks to legalize sports betting in the state. According to experts’ projections, such a move could bring an additional $1.6 million to the 2020 Indiana budget. This provision, however, has gone largely ignored, despite the fact that it is very likely to have a massive impact across the state. As part of the measure, state’s casinos, racinos and satellite locations would be able to apply for permission to offer sports betting services. Video gambling and betting on high-school and amateur sports, however, would not be allowed.
According to Speaker Brian Bosma, sports betting provisions have gone without much discussion because of the US Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling which lifted the federal ban on sports betting services in the US. Sports betting is not unknown to Indiana residents, as many of them have been already betting illegally across the state.
The proposed piece of legislation has provoked mixed reactions outside the Statehouse, so it remains to be seen what its fate would be from now on.