October 19, 2018

Study Committee Recommends, With Caution, Lawmakers Consider Legal Sports Gambling

Proponents of legalized sports gambling argue that money currently spent on the black market, often run by foreign companies, should generate money for the state instead. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Proponents of legalized sports gambling argue that money currently spent on the black market, often run by foreign companies, should generate money for the state instead.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A legislative study committee Friday voted to recommend lawmakers consider making sports gambling legal in Indiana. The small group of senators and representatives heard public testimony for nearly four hours before casting their vote.

A handful of states have passed similar legislation since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in May to strike down a federal law that effectively made sports betting illegal.

Committee Chair and Republican Rep. Ben Smaltz says the committee still doesn't understand the complexities around the issue enough to make an explicit recommendation, but he wants the conversation to continue.

“My concern is the weeds, the details, the data, the regulations, the funding," Smaltz says. "How is all that going to work?”

The committee's recommendation, which passed 9 - 0, is essentially neutral. It asks members of the General Assembly to consider a bill in the next legislative session, but doesn't weigh in on how they should vote.

Proponents of legalized sports gambling argue that money currently spent on the black market, often run by foreign companies, should generate money for the state instead.

A consultant group hired by the state estimates regulated sports betting would generate $87 million for Indiana, through taxes and licensing fees, in the first five years.

Tension in the committee mostly concerned exactly how regulations would be written, and enforced. Some members said they cast their vote with caution, urging lawmakers to strike a delicate balance so the industry doesn’t become over-regulated.

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