Indiana Gambling Regulators Criticized by Lawmakers Over Fines

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The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) this week has been put under a magnifying glass by state lawmakers, who grilled the commission’s leadership at a meeting on Tuesday.

State Sen. Chris Garten (R-Charlestown) was one who cast a critical eye on the regulatory body, questioning if the increasing fines levied against Indiana casinos and their operators are fair punishment.

The commission has imposed fines totaling more than $4.5 million over the past seven years.

“It appears that the ideology is because casinos are profitable in Indiana, we should be able to fine them more,” said Garten. “That doesn’t give you the right.”

Indiana online casinos were recently dropped from discussion by lawmakers after two controversies involving lawmakers and donations from gambling-linked individuals.

Performance of Utmost Importance

The IGC is responsible for overseeing 12 commercial riverboat and land-based casinos, as well as Indiana retail sportsbooks. It now finds itself defending its stance and processes in a public hearing.

Executive Director Greg Small stood firm, advocating for the commission’s actions, emphasizing that the fines were not merely punitive, but aimed to encourage compliance and uphold the integrity of the state’s gaming industry.

He also reminded lawmakers that ensuring the continued economic performance of state casinos is part of his organization’s legal mandate.

“And, by the way, we also have a mandate in statute that economic performance of the casinos and their hiring is of the utmost importance, and we certainly respect that,” he said.

Garten replied that casino operators had privately expressed concerns to him that Indiana is becoming one of the more stringent regulatory markets in the United States.

One operator told Garten that they feared “retribution” from the IGC for minor infractions, as reported by Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Financial Reprimands and Industry Response

Under the current state casino law, the IGC possesses the authority to issue penalties for violations of statutory conditions.

This has resulted in an array of fines for various infractions, from allowing underage individuals access to gaming floors to failing to withhold winnings from individuals owing child support.

This ongoing debate emerges against a backdrop of a rapidly evolving gaming industry in Indiana. The IGC’s workload has notably increased with the legalization of Indiana sports betting in 2019 and the opening of three new casinos since 2017.

The regulatory landscape has become more complex, with new forms of gaming and a greater number of establishments falling under the IGC’s purview.

Scandals Hit Market

The gambling sector in the state has also been under increased scrutiny after two recent gambling related scandals.

First, former state senator Brent Waltz brought back to light his 2022 federal sentence for lying to the FBI about his undeclared gambling donations from Centaur Gaming. He did so by publicly appealing to have it overturned.

Then the ongoing debate over online casinos in Indiana was thrown off course by a second scandal, when former House Representative Sean Eberhart entered a guilty plea against the federal corruption charges leveled against him.

The 16-year veteran of the Indiana Capitol admitted taking a bribe in 2019. Casino operator Spectacle Gaming offered Eberhart a promised six-figure job after leaving office in return for pushing a gaming bill that helped the operator.

That news led to many lawmakers souring on new gambling legislation in Indiana in the immediate future, essentially nixing the idea of online casinos for 2024.

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