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Lawmakers closer than ever to expanding legalized online gambling

Indiana Republican Senator Jon Ford speaks into a handheld microphone on a panel at a local legislative conference. Ford is a White man, balding with short gray hair. He is wearing a blazer, shirt and tie.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) has been one of the legislature's leaders in pushing for i-gaming.

Legal, online gaming that goes beyond sports is closer to reality for Indiana than ever before.

A recent study suggests Hoosiers are likely spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in illegal, online gambling – things like poker and slot games.

Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) said more and more lawmakers are understanding the extent of what’s already occurring.

“That’s happening here unregulated, right? So, no consumer protection – they hold back more than traditional brick-and-mortar casinos," Ford said. "Can consumers get their money when they win?”

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues and throughout the legislative session.

Much of the debate will center on how to regulate it and what level to tax it at. The Indiana Gaming Commission recently commissioned a study on how much money i-gaming could generate for the state. Taxed at 20 percent, the report estimated Indiana could collect nearly $400 million over the first three years.

2023 legislation to legalize i-gaming will likely start at an 18 percent tax rate.

Ford said he wants any bill to include more robust responsible gaming efforts – programs that help people struggling with gambling addiction.

“So, for me, it would be more money, more upfront advertising … like we do with alcohol,” Ford said.

The legislative session begins in January.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.