So you heard that sports wagering becomes legal in Indiana today. You’ve got some money set aside to get in on the action and you want to get cracking.
It is possible to start wagering today, but you’ll have to put some gas in your tank to do so. And you won’t be able to use your phone to do it either. At least not yet.
A 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowed sports gaming to be legal nationwide after a 1992 law that effectively banned commercial sports wagering everywhere but Nevada. Sports wagering in Indiana became a legal reality when Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Indiana’s sports gaming bill into law on May 8.
By the time of implementation, Indiana will become the 12th state to have legalized sports wagering. None of Indiana’s neighbors will have legal sports betting ready, though Illinois has also made sports wagering legal, with a date of implementation yet to be determined. Other neighboring states have bills proposed.
Indiana’s timeline in getting legal sports betting off the ground has been aggressive. The law allowed for a Sept. 1 start date for sports wagering. The law allows for both retail wagering — in brick-and-mortar locations — and online gaming where any Indiana resident over the age of 21 can place wagers via approved online entities anywhere within state boundaries.
That’s what the law provides for, but practically? Only a part of the law will be ready to be implemented today.
It was thought, when the bill was passed, that online gaming might preface retail gaming, but the opposite is true. Retail gaming will begin today. Casino sports gaming will be ready to go today, per approval by the Indiana Gaming Commission, at Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ameristar Casino in East Chicago and the Indiana Grand in Shelbyville.
Other properties will roll out their sports gaming operations throughout the month of September. The online gaming component won’t be ready for a longer period of time, possibly well into 2020.
So what will the sports gaming industry in Indiana look like when it has its full rollout? However it evolves, it will be a fundamental change in Indiana’s gaming landscape.
Where and how can you bet?
When the Supreme Court decision was rendered in 2018, there was all manner of speculation on how widespread sports betting would become. Some commercial entities speculated on having legal sports gambling on their properties. Some media and sports fans speculated that some entertainment and sports venues looking for a boost of interest and a revenue stream could have gambling on-site. There was talk of possibly having gambling kiosks in public locations.
However, the Indiana law tapped the brakes on those grandiose schemes.
“The legislature authorized retail sports wagering to occur at the current Indiana-licensed casino facilities, racino properties (Hoosier Park in Anderson and the Indiana Grand in Shelbyville) and the off-track betting facilities. We’re not in a position to approve any facilities beyond that by law,” said Indiana Gaming Commission executive director Sara Gonso Tait.
The IGC is in charge of regulating sports gaming inside Indiana borders. The IGC had a very short period of time to implement a plan, but it did have the guidance of observing what other states have done when they legalized sports wagering.
“It was a very short runway for implementation, but we did our homework on the front end. We’re not the first state. Some states have been effectively regulating these activities for many years and some have recently come online. We don’t have to have original thoughts. There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel. We are at the benefit of a lot of states that have already rolled this out. It’s new to us, but it’s not a new industry,” Tait said.
In their research and discussion with other regulatory bodies, the IGC decided a two-tiered rollout would work best in Indiana.
“We talked to other jurisdictions, they indicated to us that retail is easy to get up and launched than mobile because retail can easily fold into existing casino operations. So many of our casino operators have wisely focused on retail. We’re letting the industry guide us and they’ve guided us towards this two-tiered launch,” Tait said.
Casino operators have options as to how they implement sports wagering. The immediate thought when casino-based sports wagering comes to mind is a Las Vegas-style sports book. That’s an option, but not the only one.
“We’re receiving proposals from casino operators. Some are temporary sports lounges, some will have something you’d see in Las Vegas, some might have self-service kiosks,” Tait said.
The IGC is still in the process of approving sites for sports gaming, though most who intend to carry it expect to be up and running within the week. Five casinos have been given the official Retail Go Live Authorization by the IGC as of Aug. 29.
“We are working daily with the Indiana Gaming Commission to submit the appropriate information to comply with the new sports wagering regulations. The collective effort has been outstanding and [we] anticipate the opportunity to commence operations in the near future, pending their final approval,” French Lick chief operating officer Chris Leininger told the Tribune-Star via email.
French Lick will launch sports gaming on Sept. 6 and is one of the five entities approved by the IGC.
As for the proposed casino in Terre Haute? Any notion of how sports gaming could take place there is still speculative. The casino itself is contingent on the November referendum and whether Spectacle Entertainment will be the operator of the casino if the referendum is approved.
What about mobile wagering?
Mobile wagering will be more convenient for gamblers once it’s available, but it’s more difficult to get off the ground than wagering is in existing casino facilities. Many of the casinos in Indiana are owned by national wagering conglomerates that have experience with sports wagering in other states.
Moreover, mobile wagering requires more technology and oversight.
“The mobile platform takes much more extensive testing in the lab. In rolling it out and with training, it doesn’t really fit nicely within any of the categories currently done at casinos. It’s entirely new,” said Jenny Reske, deputy director at the IGC.
IGC representatives indicated that Indiana’s style of online sports wagering exists in states such as Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Tait said Indiana’s law most closely mirrors New Jersey’s law. Online wagering is a field that’s open to more bodies than just the traditional casino operators. Online fantasy sports bodies such as FanDuel and DraftKings are big players in the field and FanDuel will host sports books at Boyd’s Blue Chip in Michigan City and Belterra in Switzerland County once approved by the IGC.
With Indiana making it clear it is rolling out online gaming gradually, it is unlikely to be reality for Hoosiers until 2020.
“We have yet to receive mobile request. We don’t have any idea when mobile will be launched,” Tait indicated. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility we could receive a request and process that by January.”
One reason for the delay is that there are considerations in effect for mobile sports wagering that don’t exist in retail gaming. A verification process has to be established to make sure would-be gamblers are of legal age and are eligible to place wagers. Betting can only occur inside Indiana’s borders, so geofencing — a process by which gaming is confined to a certain area electronically — also has to be put in place.
However, mobile is coming, and once it does? It will be a relatively simple process and wagering can occur anywhere someone has a smartphone inside state borders. Some entities, particularly sports venues, could create a geofence so that wagering doesn’t take place inside their facility, but that will be at the discretion of the sporting bodies, not the IGC.
“People can sign up on their phone for wagering. A Hoosier could download an app from a mobile provider that’s licensed by the Indiana Gaming Commission and go through an authentication and verification process without going to an Indiana casino or racino first,” Tait said.
The process will include a verification process that will be run by the gaming operator with prior approval from the IGC.
“Some sites will make you upload a photograph of a government-issued ID. They go through various know-your-customer background things. There can be several different points. They’ll go through public record information only you would know. Social Security, date of birth, that kind of thing. The mobile providers will contract with a third party that specializes in verification,” said IGC general counsel Greg Small.
According to the IGC’s Temporary Draft Rules, one must have a patron sports wagering account to use a credit or debit card, whether betting online or in a retail location. Bettors will only be allowed one account.
The obvious question is how to keep mobile sports wagering in the hands of those who are actually eligible to use it.
“Their processes are good. I don’t want to say there’s no instance of minors (wagering via mobile devices), but it’s quite rare. We’ve been monitoring paid fantasy sports since July of 2016 and we’ve received no complaints of minor’s accessing an account,” Small said.
What can you bet on and what is the endgame of sports wagering?
The IGC lists all approved events for sports wagering on their website. A total of 18 sports are eligible for wagering. All of Indiana’s pro sports teams, Division I college teams — including Indiana State — and one-off events, such as the Indianapolis 500, will be legal to be wagered on if offered by the entity.
Sports as diverse as darts, pro bowling, sailing and cricket are all eligible for wagering as well as popular sports like football, basketball, baseball and soccer.
There are certain events that can’t be wagered on. Esports are banned under the law. As are any events involving amateur athletes under the age of 18.
The actual kind of sports betting available — such as whether there can be exotic prop bets — will be dependent on the operator.
So what will the state of Indiana’s sports wagering be in a year’s time? Retail wagering should be established by then and online gaming could be in its early stages as well. Ultimately, the goal of legalized sports betting is to move the betting money away from illegal gambling.
There is no real estimate on how lucrative illegal sports gambling is, but most estimates place the handle between $80-$380 billion, according to an Oxford Economics study from 2017, though the real number is likely in the lower range of that estimate.
Legal sports gaming, still in its infancy nationwide, passed the $10 billion threshold in its handle in a report released by the American Gaming Association last Monday. That same Oxford Economics study, using legal gaming in the U.S. and long-legal gaming in Europe as a guide, estimated that the range of money waged per adult per day could range from $11 (the current rate in Delaware) to $77 dollars (the current rate in Denmark).
So the goal is obvious — Indiana wants a piece of the action. And with a 9.5 percent tax rate on adjusted gross income as part of the law, it’s not insignificant action.
“The biggest thing, a year from now, that I’ll be looking at is: Have we captured the black market? Have we done a good job creating a good state-regulated market that captures the black market? Because that’s one of the goals,” Tait said.