U.S. Legislators Stumble With iGaming As Legalization Efforts Continue

July 14, 2023
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As lawmakers in Indiana struggle to pass an internet gaming bill, a key Republican legislator acknowledges that several challenges still need to be overcome to get a bill through the General Assembly next year.

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As lawmakers in Indiana struggle to pass an internet gaming bill, a key Republican legislator acknowledges that several challenges still need to be overcome to get a bill through the General Assembly next year.

“We really have had three primary challenges with the bill this year,” said Representative Ethan Manning, who chairs the House Public Policy Committee, which is the first stop for any gambling bill in Indiana. “One was, and this is not news to anybody, that the Senate President [Rodric Bray] has made it clear he is not a fan of it.”

“So that’s hurdle number one,” Manning said. “Number two, was the fiscal note [and] number three is education.”

An official fiscal note issued in January by the Indiana General Assembly’s Legislative Services Agency warned that up to 30 percent of new online gaming revenues would be displaced from existing land-based casino revenues and could be higher for a saturated market like Indiana.

In an interview with VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Thursday (July 13), Manning said his colleagues have expressed concerns about cannibalization of existing brick-and-mortar casinos by iGaming and for that reason “we are trying to have [this effort] led by our casinos.”

“Because it is such a major market and we have supported the industry for 30 years, since we authorized gaming in 1993, we really want them to take the lead in how iGaming should operate,” he said. “That’s the way the bill has been structured every time it has been introduced.”

But to get a bill over the finish line in 2024, Manning reiterated the need to educate his colleagues on the issue.

“When I talk to them about the black market, they really don’t realize that it does exist. That’s because they are not involved in it,” Manning told VIXIO at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) summer meeting in Denver.

“If I Google iGaming in Indiana, it’s there,” he added. “We all see it.”

Currently, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Michigan, Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only states that have legalized online casino gaming. Nevada has also approved interactive gaming, but only for online poker.

Rhode Island legalized iGaming in June. Indiana, New York, Illinois and Iowa were all on the gaming industry’s list of states expected to consider legalizing internet gaming.

Beyond Rhode Island, Brendan Bussmann, managing director of Las Vegas-based BGlobal, told Truist Securities in a research note published Wednesday (July 12) that the two states most likely to legalize iGaming by the end of 2024 are New York and Maryland through a ballot initiative.

Bussmann said he also was “keeping an eye” on Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. in the next wave.

Mark Ferrandino, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees gaming and the lottery, admitted during a speech Thursday at NCLGS that state officials have started to have conversations about potentially asking the voters to legalize iLottery and iGaming.

He said legalizing online casino gaming would take a voter initiative. Colorado voters last approved a ballot initiative to expand gaming on November 7, 2019, when they narrowly passed Proposition DD legalizing retail and mobile sports betting.

“We are talking with states that have legalized them,” Ferrandino said.

When asked if Iowa or Illinois passing an online casino gaming bill would make it easier for Manning to get his bill passed in Indiana, he said maybe it could help.

“I think about Illinois as they are building more traditional casinos,” he said. “How can we keep ourselves competitive? If we do see real cannibalization of our brick-and-mortar casinos [from Illinois], if we can have this revenue stream from iGaming, it’s a real plus.”

Stephen Krombolz, Tipico U.S. vice president of business development, described his company a “very much a challenger brand” in the United States due to the fact that Tipico is best known for operating online betting, as well as some 1,300 betting shops in Germany.

“We really focused on a single market, that’s Germany,” Krombolz said. “That’s why people in the U.S. may not have heard of us, as opposed to some larger brands you’ll see in 20 or 30 countries.”

In terms of growth in the U.S., Krombolz said Tipico focused first on being licensed in New Jersey before launching sports betting in 2020 followed by iGaming. The company also operates sports betting in Colorado and Ohio.

“Ohio was massively important to us and was really the state where we opened as a first movement operator,” he said. “We were live on day one. We spent a lot of money in Ohio to try and gain market share and we continue to invest heavily in Ohio.”

In terms of future opportunities, Krombolz said it was pretty apparent that iGaming is a business that is very lucrative, and there is a good opportunity to add more iGaming states in two or three years.

Krombolz noted that there was initial progress in Indiana, but that progress has slowed.

“We think it will come back,” he added. “Iowa is in the same boat, while in Ohio, we’ll see what happens there. From our perspective, iGaming is really an important piece of the puzzle.”

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