INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - It's a playoff weekend for the NFL, and our Indianapolis Colts are center stage, taking on the Broncos in Denver on Sunday. Pro-sports are big business themselves, and that doesn't include the billions of dollars that changes hands under the table, in illegal sports gambling. Now one state lawmaker wants to change that and make sports betting legal here in Indiana.
State Representative Alan Morrison said Indiana needs to be ahead of the curve. He told CBS4 the tide is turning, that sports betting will one day be legal at the federal level, and Hoosiers have a lot to gain when that happens.
When the Colts take the field, you can bet money is changing hands. That wager is legal in Nevada, and a handful of other states, but elsewhere it is not.
"All I'm trying to do with this is basically set up the infrastructure so that when the Feds say okay, and the Indiana Gaming Commission says alright, that we're kind of first to the table with it and not stuck on the sideline waiting on our opportunity," said Representative Alan Morrison.
Morrison's filed two bills. One would allow racinos to conduct leagues based on fantasy sports, a practice that'd done now legally online. The other would permit sports wagering at betting houses, racinos, or riverboats, given the Feds eventually ease gambling restrictions.
"I don't look at this as an expansion but an enhancement," said Morrison.
Morrison said an enhancement is needed. Indiana's casinos are in bad shape, bleeding money, with revenue down nearly ten percent from last year.
"I think that this is going to be something you're going to see happening in quite a few states across the country," said Dr. Jay Gladden, Dean of the IU School of Physical Education & Tourism Management.
Gladden teaches sports marketing and said he isn't surprised a lawmaker is taking this stance.
In November, NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote an editorial in the New York Times, pushing for sports betting to be legalized and calling it a $400 billion dollar industry run through bookies and off-shore enterprises.
If betting becomes legal, Gladden said it will change the game, and the emotion of sporting events could disappear.
"They would become professional wrestling is what they would become. They would no longer be real. They'd be fake, and the competition on the field would be fake versus real," he said.
And that, if it happens, may take some of the fun out of rooting for your hometown team.
"People say the Colts won't go out to Denver and win, but we're all going to watch because we think there's still a good chance they could win. And you never know what happens," he said.
Morrison said by some estimates Indiana could get $12 to $70 million in revenue if betting becomes legal.
New Jersey's currently tied up in a back-and-forth legal battle to try and get sports betting approved in their state.