With casino revenue down roughly 15% since 2009 Indiana is looking for new ways to increase gambling revenue according to an article at fairfieldcitizenonline.com. One potential solution not mentioned in the article could be expansion into online gambling.
Unfortunately, this is a solution Indiana lawmakers are unlikely to even consider.
Why it should happen
Indiana relies heavily on the hundreds of millions of dollars their casino industry generates (over $750 million last year) to pay for everything from road repairs to civil servant salaries according to the article in the fairfiledcitizenonline.com. A continued decline in revenue could hit the state hard and jeopardize local budgets, which is why lawmakers are looking into new ways to keep the revenue at its current or previous levels.
One such lawmaker is Evansville City Controller Russell Lloyd who was quoted by the fairfiledcitizenonline.com as saying, “From our end, the city would just like to see the revenue consistent. We don’t want to see anything that would make revenue go down.”
State Senator Vanetta Becker (R-Evansville) is another lawmaker who is looking to reverse the current trend, telling the FCO, “It is a fact of life that communities and the state rely on that revenue to fund a portion of government services.”
One way to accomplish this would be through online gambling expansion, which could help make up for the loss of $125 million in revenue the state’s casino industry has experienced since 2009.
Why it won’t happen
Even though Indiana looks like a perfect candidate for online gambling expansion it will likely not even be mentioned if and when a study is commissioned or a hearing is held.
Firstly, Indiana is a solid red state with a slant towards social conservatism more than libertarianism. The senate is 37 to 13 in favor of Republicans and the House is 69 to 31.
Further complicating matters is Republican Governor Mike Pence and his opposition to online gambling. Pence publicly supports Sheldon Adelson’s proposed ban of online gambling, recently sending a letter to the Indiana delegation urging them to support the ban.
Online gambling expansion in Indiana is the longest of long-shots in 2014 and into the foreseeable future, but this is certainly a state that should be looking into online expansion to help bolster its shrinking casino revenue and stave off what will surely be a continued decline as more of its neighbors open casinos.
The legislature realizes the need for something to be done, and the elephant in the room will be online gambling. While unlikely now, perhaps at some point down the road, they will take a serious look at it.
Can Indiana support online gambling?
The good news for Indiana is the state has a decent sized population of 6.5 million (with an adult population of roughly 4.8 million) and also has several dense population areas right on their border: Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Further helping the cause, according to research done in 2010 by Kahlil Philander and Ingo Fiedler, Indiana had an online poker participation rate of about .51%, which is well above New Jersey (.44%) and the national average, but still a far cry from Nevada’s .96%.
One problematic consideration that could factor into play is the median household income in Indiana is just $47,000 ranking Indiana 38th in the country, which means there is less disposable income in the state.
Overall, Indiana would likely struggle to maintain a viable self-contained online poker industry, but it’s not out of the question.
For online poker/gambling to really work in Indiana they would likely need to enter into agreements with other states.
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