Indiana, like much of the Midwestern United States, has plenty of gambling options for citizens and tourists alike. Casinos do exist in Indiana, however they are a bit different from casinos you might find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Regardless of this, the gambling experience is unexpectedly high quality.
When people think of Indiana there is often not all that much that comes to mind. The state itself is relatively flat and barren compared to states like California and Florida. As such, tourism is not a huge draw. Thanks to the growing casino industry, however, this is something that is slowly but surely changing.
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Indiana used to have a set of strict gambling laws, but the local lawmakers have started introducing new gambling-friendly regulations back in the eighties. As a result, Indiana currently has a rapidly developing land-based gambling Industry and the local real money gaming aficionados are free to play their favorite games in both commercial and riverboat casinos. Pari-mutuel wagering and charity gambling events are allowed.
Like most US states, Indiana has its own lottery but does not allow online ticket sales. The Hoosier State doesn’t have a regulated intrastate online gambling market, which means that iGaming enthusiasts have to play on offshore sites.
Starting with riverboat casinos in the ’90s, and moving to a restricted number of land-based casinos more recently, Indiana is currently home to 12 fully outfitted casinos sanctioned by the Indiana Gaming Commission:
There is also one tribal casino in South Bend called Four Winds Casino. It features 1,600 slot machines and a poker room with ten tables.
You must be 21 years of age or older to play at any of the Indiana casinos.
In regards to online gambling casinos, state code reads:
“An operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the Internet to engage in unlawful gambling: (1) in Indiana; or (2) with a person located in Indiana; commits a Class D felony.”
As was mentioned previously, there is only one type of gambling that can take place in Indiana, and that is riverboat gambling. Initially, this type of casino gambling was only able to happen so long as the boat was on a body of water and in motion. Since then, state laws have changed such that riverboats need not be in motion to offer casino games. Most of them are docked nowadays.
In Indiana, riverboat gambling is able to be found in the far South on the Ohio River as well as the far North on Lake Michigan. Of the 13 casinos in Indiana, 10 of them are of the riverboat variety.
Racinos are labeled as such due to their existence at horse and dog race tracks. In Indiana, racinos are able to offer betting on horse and dog racing as well as slot games. The addition of slot games is a somewhat new venture as the state expands legal casino-style gambling.
There is only one traditional, land-based casino located in the state of Indiana. The story behind this casino (French Lick Resort Casino) is interesting because it was originally intended to be a riverboat casino. Before French Lick opened for business, it was intended to be a riverboat casino as it was to be situated in the middle of a man-made pond. The legal situation surrounding French Lick, in particular, shifted in a hurry, and the need to create a pond no longer existed. It still stands as the only land-based casino in the state.
Legalized sports betting is coming to Indiana. It’s just not quite there yet.
Two bills were proposed in the state in 2018, one in the House and one in the Senate. Included in the bills were a 1% integrity fee paid to professional sports leagues based on the wager amount and a 9.25% tax on sports betting revenue.
The legislative session ended before any votes could be held or the two bills could be reconciled in committee. That’s expected to be a priority when the new session opens in 2019.
Fantasy Sports Gambling and eSports
In 2016, Indiana made daily fantasy sports (DFS) legal within the state. The law signed by Governor Mike Pence laid out the following regulations:
The Indiana Gaming Commission oversees DFS companies operating in the state, and lists the following operators as license holders:
Gambling on eSports is still considered a game of chance, making it illegal.
Indianapolis is well known as the home of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”– the 500-mile motorsports race held every Memorial Day weekend at the Brickyard. If you venture just outside the city limits, you can access both of the state’s legal live horse racing venues, which also double as casinos.
Off-track betting (OTB) is limited to sites owned and operated by the two race tracks. The four OTB locations are in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Clarksville, and Shelbyville.
There is no greyhound racing in Indiana. You must be at least 18 years old to place a parimutuel wager.
Eight of the casinos listed above have live poker rooms:
There are no other poker rooms in the state.
Online poker is illegal.
The Hoosier Lottery was passed by Indiana voters in 1988, and it began selling tickets the next year. Along with scratch-off tickets and two instant win/nightly draw games, the following draw games are available:
All winning tickets must be claimed within 180 days of the game date. You must be 18 years of age or older to buy a ticket or claim a prize.
Indiana does have charitable gaming laws that allow qualified nonprofit organizations to host bingo games as fundraisers. If the prize is less than $1,000, or $3,000 over a calendar year, qualified organizations do not need a license from the state.
For those who do need a license, the initial fee is $50. Renewal rates are on a graduated scale based on the adjusted gross income from previous events. Along with bingo, a charitable gaming license allows organizations to conduct charity game nights, which may include card, dice, and roulette games.
You must be at least 18 years old to buy a bingo card in Indiana.
The casino history of Indiana extends back to the mid-1800s when the newly drafted state constitution explicitly banned a state lottery. Though the constitution itself only made mention of lotteries and nothing else, it was widely believed that this really meant that all forms of gambling were illegal.
Flash forward more than 100 years to 1988. At this time, the longstanding ban on lotteries was lifted thanks to an amendment to the state’s constitution. Shortly after the amendment was made, the Mayor of Gary, Indiana—an economically depressed town due to the departure of manufacturing—introduced a bill to the state’s General Assembly that would allow for a casino to be built in the city. The bill did not make it very far and was shot down, but shortly thereafter a referendum was held which showed that more than 60% of Gary residents supported the idea of bringing casinos to the city.
A second pro-casino bill was introduced to lawmakers in 1990, but a Republican-dominated state government shot this bill down as well. Over the course of the next three years, no less than 3 new bills were introduced to state lawmakers only to eventually be shot down and thrown out.
Thanks to the state of Indiana delving into a budget crisis in 1993, a special session of the state’s General Assembly was held in June of that year. Despite the raising of taxes seeming like the only way by which the state of Indiana would be able to claw its way out of the ongoing budget crisis, Republicans wanted nothing to do with that. As a compromise, Republicans were able to refrain from raising taxes so long as they met certain Democratic demands; which included an expansion of casino gambling. Because of the compromise, Indiana was able to host 5 riverboat casinos on Lake Michigan as well as 5 more on the Ohio River. Another casino was licensed and was supposed to be docked on Patoka Lake, but a license transfer ensured that the casino was eventually built in French Lick.
In 2007, state law was changed once more and allowed for slot machines to exist at horse and dog racetracks. This took the total number of official casinos up to 13 from 11. What it also did was open up the central part of the state to gambling. Before this measure was approved, the only casino gambling that one could partake in Indiana was either on Lake Michigan or the Ohio River, which are located at the Northernmost and Southernmost parts of the state. Despite Indiana not necessarily being considered a gambling mecca, it holds its own and is becoming more accepting to casinos as the years move forward.