Gaming bill passes House ahead of Monday’s deadline


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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The House voted to pass a controversial gaming bill ahead of Monday’s deadline.

Senate Bill 552 passed by a vote of 78-to-15 Monday afternoon. The bill, among other things, would legalize sports betting in the Hoosier state.

The bill would allow a new casino to open in Terre Haute, and allow a Gary casino to move further inland. It also would require the governor’s office to give 48-hours public notice before any meetings with gambling industry officials.

It’s been estimated that illegal sports betting is a $300 million industry in Indiana. One representative pointed out that Indiana is the capital of the NCAA, and several professional sports teams, like the Colts and Pacers, also call the city home. Legalizing sports betting essentially gives the state a way to control and collect money from it.

Many who spoke today said they still have problems with the language of the bill, but voted for it anyway as a way to regulate sports betting.

“This is a big lift. There’s a lot of expansion in here, I know there is. But is it good public policy? I think some of this is,” said Rep. Matt Lehman (R).

“I do believe we’re missing a major component on it, and that’s the mobile part. There are eight states right now that currently have sports wagering. All of them have mobile. One of them only has mobile on the premises, which kind of means they don’t, and that’s Mississippi. We’re better than Mississippi,” said Rep. Alan Morrison (R).

“It is a total work in progress. It’s going to continue to undergo some significant changes. But if we kill this bill today, we have no chance to manage sports betting,” said Rep. Terri Austin (D).

The bill now goes to conference committee to work out differences.

Any Senate bills that do not pass the House by the deadline will be dead for the session. A number of controversial measures are still on the docket.

The payday loans bill that would allow for small loans with interest rates higher than Indiana currently law allows has died for this session. Representatives Lehman and Woody Burton declined to call it to the floor, saying it still has too many flaws.

Across the hallway, the Senate discussed their version of the state’s two-year budget. The deadline to pass the budget is tomorrow.

There was also discussion in conference committee about expanding Indiana’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The expansion would protect individuals who use force in self defense against civil lawsuits.

There was also an attempt to insert language to allow guns on church property. No decision has come out on that yet.

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