The online lottery debate in Indiana continues as lawmakers wager on which will be more beneficial to the state: online lottery sales or more general gaming expansion.
Back and forth between lawmakers and the Hoosier Lottery has left the debate at an impasse. As a result, a board has been appointed to research and report on the matter.
As many state lotteries assume control of expanded territory into casino and sports betting arenas, Indiana lawmakers are split between enabling online lottery games or other avenues of iGaming, which includes poker, casino and sports betting entertainment.
This round of for and against arguments is the latest revisiting of the topic. The last time Indiana’s legislature touched on gaming issues was in 2019. Then, the annual business plan evaluated whether or not to allow interactive online gaming markets to proliferate. As part of that evaluation, lawmakers asked the Hoosier Lottery to evaluate the needs of such industry expansion in terms of technology, game limitations and content, prize organization and payout structure, legal and regulatory difficulties, capital investment, marketing strategy, staffing requirements and net income potential.
Since the Hoosier Lottery’s inception in 1989, a five-member lottery commission has supervised the operation of the institution. The entity oversees security, accounting, prize payment, retail licensing, drawings and compliance for the Lottery. However, the private contractor IGT Indiana manages the Hoosier Lottery’s marketing, sales, development and distribution.
Rep. Justin Moed expressed reservations about how the state legislature is conducting its review of expanded gaming in the state, saying, “Gaming is a very interesting world where there are always things that aren’t being talked about out loud. They are playing footsie with the idea.”
Moed takes particular issue with the fact that the appointed group is conducting its research in isolation. The representative would prefer the discourse take place in full public view, asserting, “The General Assembly is where we have made almost every other gaming decision in the state’s history. Every time you impact one space in gaming, it has unintended consequences on another space in gaming. So we should be part of the discussion.”
When work on Senate Bill 245 began winding down in April, Moed penned an addition to the gambling legislation that included specific language barring any entities from the operation or authorization of lottery games available through a video lottery terminal, gambling games played on electronic devices or the sale of lottery tickets over the internet “unless specifically granted authority by a statute passed by the General Assembly.” Moed followed his drafted amendment with the assertion that he was not against online lottery activities but that those decisions had to be made in a public venue.
Moed’s colleague in the Senate, Sen. Ron Alting, was quick to hear negative responses to the newly added language from gaming industry participants, saying, “Let me be frank. It was opposed by the gaming commission, it was opposed by the lottery commission. It was opposed by everybody but my mother.”
Alting went on to state, “It was the final hours, and the lottery commission called me and said it could possibly have long-term negative impacts on the lottery’s future. So my antenna went up real quick. This is something that we will see again, hopefully with more time to research it.”
As a result of his opposition to singing off on the bill without the included language on public hearings, Moed was removed as a conferee.
Moed responded to the news, saying, “It struck a nerve with someone. They told me they don’t have that authority over and over again. But it’s very clear they do. And if they don’t, then what is the harm of this language?”