Indiana Committee Passes Sports Betting Legislation, Setting Stage For Senate Vote

Amid opposition from Penn National, Indiana lawmakers advanced a measure on Thursday that calls for legalizing sports betting in the state.
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On Thursday, the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee voted 12-0 in favor of a piece of legislation that calls for legalizing sports betting, including mobile wagering platforms, in the state.

The legislation, SB 552, is a larger gambling expansion package that includes other changes to the state’s casino industry, most notably riverboat casino relocations.

Indiana state Sen. Mark Messmer, a Republican sponsor of the bill, told the committee that the legislation’s tax structure for sports betting will be fleshed out in the House as the session unfolds.

Sen. Messmer on Thursday

The 2019 session is slated to adjourn on April 29.

The legislation previously cleared the Senate Public Policy Committee earlier this month.

Opposition to casino relocations

Despite widespread support for the legalization of sports wagering, the legislation is controversial for its skakeup to the Indiana brick-and-mortar casino landscape.

A representative from Penn National Gaming testified at the hearing, telling the committee that it opposes the bill. The Penn National rep said the company has “concerns about the bill.”

The casino operator is worried about loss of business to its Ameristar Casino Hotel in East Chicago, Indiana that could result from the rival Majestic Star Casino moving onto land in downtown Gary, Indiana.

“This is the most massive change since we introduced gaming to Indiana 25 years ago,” the Penn National rep said. “It’s a stable market today, and it’s unclear if it will remain so.”

Penn National also opposes moving up the timeline for table games at Indiana racinos.

Next steps

A similar Gary casino bill, SB 66, also advanced past the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. It’s unclear at this moment whether SB 66 and SB 552 will become one piece of legislation before a possible full Senate vote on the sweeping changes to the state’s gambling industry.

The measures could be taken up by the full Senate as early as next week.

The stakes are high for what Messmer has described as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for Indiana.

Photo by Alexey Stiop /


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