Governor Eric Holcomb signed gambling legislation HEA 1015 into law on Wednesday, the last day the bill was eligible for action, bringing significant changes to Indiana’s casino industry this year. The law allows people in the state to place wagers on professional and college sports as soon as September 1, accelerates the date when horse-track casinos can introduce live-dealer table games from 2021 to 1 January 2020, and allows for new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.
The legislation passed the Indiana House 59-36 and the Senate 37-12, with mixed support from Democrats and Republicans. In a statement, Holcomb said: “Gaming is a highly regulated industry that once had little competition, but now does from surrounding states and new technology. By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers. Additionally, it will bring in new revenue and create hundreds of new jobs—both permanent and in construction.”
Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, praised Holcomb's decision to sign what he called a "monumental bill" into law. "The impact it will have on Gary, Northwest Indiana as well as the entire state is widespread, and I look forward to the historic changes that will take place," Melton said. "This is something our community has been working on for over a decade, and with this signature, hundreds of Hoosiers will find employment.”
As for sports wagering, the law legalizes the activity for adults ages 21 and older as of September 1 and implements a 9.5% tax rate on those wagers. The tax rate is higher than some states, such as Nevada and New Jersey, where the rates are 6.75% and 8.5%, respectively. But it’s lower than others like Mississippi or West Virginia, where the rates are 12% and 10%.
Hoosiers will be able to place bets by using their smartphones or at a casino or off-track betting facility, such as Winner’s Circle in downtown Indianapolis, after registering online or at a casino or OTB. Betting on eSports or high school and other amateur youth sports is prohibited.
The law allows Spectacle Entertainment to move forward as desired with a new $300 million casino along the Interstate 80/94 corridor in Gary, but the company will have to surrender its second license to the state and pay a $20 million fee to the state to relocate one license. Spectacle would have to pay another $20 million if it chooses to sell the new casino within five years.
The legislation requires a minimum investment of $150 million for the new Gary casino, which would be allowed to have 2,764 gaming positions—many more than the 1,684 positions now at the two Gary casinos combined. If all of the gaming positions were utilized, it would be the largest casino in Indiana, a fact that has drawn concern from other casino operators, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Spectacle Entertainment presented this rendering of the casino it seeks to build in Gary.
As long as Spectacle moves ahead as expected, the license surrendered to the state will be used to open a casino in Terre Haute. Potential casino operators would submit proposals to the Indiana Gaming Commission, and the selected operator would have to pay a $5 million fee for the license. Spectacle, which has expressed interest in operating a Terre Haute casino, would be eligible to submit a proposal. The law requires a minimum investment of $100 million in the Terre Haute casino, and the number of gaming positions is capped at 1,500.
In addition, before a Terre Haute casino is allowed to move forward, voters in Vigo County will have to approve a referendum supporting it. If the Gary casinos are consolidated and a Terre Haute casino opens, the state would have 12 casinos and two horse-track casinos in total. The law provides subsidies for East Chicago, Hammond, Michigan City, Evansville and French Lick—communities some lawmakers argued would be impacted by new casinos in Terre Haute and Gary.
The law also increases the cap on the number of casinos and racinos one operator is allowed to control from two to six. Holcomb said he 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.”