Indiana Gaming Legislation on Pause for 2024 Amid Corruption Scandals
The upcoming Indiana legislature session for 2024 will see no new gaming bills considered, announced top lawmakers meeting at the State Capitol (pictured) this week.
The decision to not press for regulated online casinos in Indiana in the immediate future is mostly a response to the fallout around a gambling corruption scandal involving former Representative Sean Eberhart.
Eberhart, who represented Indiana House District 57 for 16 years before resigning in November 2022, recently agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges.
The former Republican Representative for Shelbyville admitted taking a bribe in 2019. That’s when he accepted the promise of a lucrative six-figure job from Spectacle Entertainment in exchange for his support of a gaming bill that favored the casino operator.
This revelation has had a profound impact on the state’s legislative process and public trust in the statehouse.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston have expressed their concerns about the fallout from Eberhart’s corruption case.
“It taints the statehouse,” Bray said. “It diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the statehouse. It causes an awful lot of problems, and it makes it particularly difficult to engage in that kind of policy.”
A Pause in Gaming Legislation
The decision to forego any consideration of new gaming bills during the upcoming legislative session is a clear indication that Indiana’s lawmakers are taking the corruption allegations seriously.
Both Senate and House Leaders have agreed this is a step needed to restore public confidence and ensure the integrity of future legislation.
Regardless, supports of sports betting in Indiana can be happy with how things have progressed in the past few years.
A sports wagering bill was passed in Indiana in September 2019, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, which opened the door for U.S. sports betting legalization.
Since then, it has shown substantial growth. Indiana casinos have also reported significant sports wagering handles, indicating the thriving nature of this sector.
Meanwhile casinos made a collective $183 million in revenue for that month. Average revenues for 2023 were $180 million to $300 million a month.
Measured Approach Ahead
The decision to halt gaming legislation is a crucial moment for Indiana, reflecting a broader challenge faced by lawmakers in balancing economic opportunities with ethical governance.
The move may also have been influenced by another gambling-related corruption case in the state. In 2022, former state senator Brent Waltz was sentenced to prison after taking $40,500 in undeclared campaign contributions. Those came from another former state senator-turned-gambling-business owner, John Keeler, and his Centaur Gaming operation.
Keeler also spent two months in prison over the incident. Waltz has since sued his former lawyer and sought to have his sentence overturned over allegations he was stitched-up through his plea deal.
That whole scandal, and the recent guilty plea from Eberhart, has left a sour taste in the mouth for many lawmakers in the state when it comes to potential online casinos.
There have also been heavy rumors that federal investigators may be looking at other Indiana lawmakers involved in these, or potentially even yet to be discovered scandals.
Bray and Huston did not comment on those potential investigations when asked.
There are also other pressing concerns for lawmakers that will trump gambling in the upcoming session, including childcare bills and proposed union law changes.
“We’ve had three aggressive sessions — three years, in which we’ve accomplished a lot,” Republican House Speaker Huston said this week.
“We’ll probably take a pretty measured approach on what we address.”