An Indiana Senate bill filed Friday would allow the state's riverboats, racinos and their satellite facilities to offer legal sports betting if federal prohibitions are lifted. SB 405, introduced by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, follows similar bills or laws in at least 10 other states. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case early this year that could open the door for legal sports betting in any state that wants it.
Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, has said he will file an identical bill in the House.
The bill does not exempt wagering on college sports. The Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association opposes all forms of wagering on sports.
The NCAA's website says sports betting "has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community."
The NCAA declined comment on Ford's bill.
Legal Sports Report, which follows the issue nationally, said Indiana will be a "key sports betting battlefront."
The post noted that Indiana was the second state nationally to regulate paid fantasy sports in 2016, but the NCAA influenced the law by keeping college sports out of the games.
Legal Sports Report called that "a relatively easy victory" for the NCAA because there were few major companies in the industry. Influencing legislators in perhaps dozens of states, it predicted, will be much more difficult. The American Gaming Association (AGA) has already said it will fight any attempts to "carve out" college sports from legal sports betting.
The current battle, in the Supreme Court, is Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. It involves the state of New Jersey trying to have the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) declared unconstitutional. PAPSA, which passed in 1992, prohibited sports betting except in a few states.
A panel on gaming at an Indiana legislative preview conference in December agreed that sports betting is quickly moving to the mainstream. The AGA estimates that $150 billion a year is wagered on sports illegally in the U.S.
Ford's bill would impose an initial fee of at least $500,000 for operators that want to offer sports betting. They would also pay an annual administrative fee of $75,000.
Adjusted gross receipts on sports wagering would be taxed at 9.25 percent.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Public Policy.
Matt Bell, president and CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana, said at the legislative conference that educating lawmakers on the issue will be imperative.
He said sports betting by itself won't bring a huge amount of money into state coffers. The benefit of sports betting, he said, will be in attracting people to casinos who wouldn't otherwise go there.
"We have to be reasonable in the way we address sports betting and its taxation as well, both in terms of entry into the market and how we tax it as a state," Bell said. "Its benefit is that it will be driving customers to a property who wouldn't be there, who will spend incrementally in other ways. That's where the state will realize a benefit."