If Indiana legalizes internet gambling, it could rake in millions more in taxes than previously estimated, according to an Indiana Gaming Commission report publicly released last week.
Nonpartisan consultant Spectrum Gaming Group conducted the market and policy analysis on behalf of the gambling regulation agency.
But the rosy results are unlikely to make an impact for on the current legislative session.
The updated report found that Indiana could bring in between $413 million and $929 million over the first three years of legalization in “average” conditions at different possible tax rates.
That’s about 5% higher than predicted in the original 2022 report. The earlier analysis estimated tax revenue between $392 million and $883 million in average conditions for the same time period and sample rates.
Industry advocates have for several years wanted to legalize i-gaming. But federal investigations and scandals involving lawmakers, bribes and campaign finances have clouded the debate.
Republican legislative leaders have since declared a moratorium on expansion efforts.
The projections also don’t take into account the tax rate that the General Assembly might actually use.
The rate is key because—as both editions of the report observed—digital gaming requires fewer direct employees and little capital investment, compared to in-person casino gambling.
And if the rate is lower than what’s charged on in-person wagering, it could “incentivize operators to focus on i-gaming at the expense of retail casinos.”
Like the 2022 report, the update noted that live-dealer gaming could add “hundreds” of jobs, particularly if studios are required to be in Indiana. Live-dealer gaming allows players to make bets online while interacting with real-life dealers in real time through a live feed.
The update also considered three models for which entities can offer i-gaming, each with associated advantages and disadvantages:
- An open one, available to all gaming companies.
- A closed one, limiting licenses to a state’s casinos.
- A hybrid one, in which third party gaming companies can offer iGaming through licensing agreements with casinos, called “skins.” Indiana adopted a hybrid model for digital sports betting.
The report explores additional regulatory details, like operator licensing fees, occupational licensing, new game certification, anti-money laundering measures and customer identification verification.
No changes expected in near future
Indiana’s industry has been rocked by recent scandals. One 2016 campaign finance scheme involved casino money and two former lawmakers: Brent Waltz and John Keeler. They were sentenced in 2022, although Waltz has since asked to overturn the sentence.
Another former lawmaker, Sean Eberhart, pleaded guilty in November in a quid pro quo: legislation favoring Spectacle Entertainment’s efforts to build casinos in Terre Haute and Gary, in exchange for a lucrative job and equity.
IGC Deputy Director Jenny Reske said the agency commissioned the study update before those announcements. But she said it would still be useful.
“We’ll continue to develop expertise on this. We’re regulatory professionals; we understand that we sometimes need to rise to the challenge of new legislation,” Reske told reporters at a December IGC meeting. “… So we’ll continue to focus on learning, on being up to the task, if the legislation does pass.”
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.