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Committee passes online gambling on horse racing

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By Olivia Covington

Internet gambling is one step closer to becoming a reality in Indiana after a bill meant to allow Hoosiers to place horse racing bets online passed a Senate committee.

House Bill 1270 passed the Public Policy Committee on Wednesday, but Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the bill is still a “work in progress.” That’s why he requested the bill be recommitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee — a group Kenley chairs.

HB 1270 would allow horse racing fans to bet on their favorite horses from their personal phones or computers. Rep. Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield, the bill’s author, said the legislation would re-authorize that method of gambling in Indiana.

“The advanced deposit wagering is accomplished by customers pre-funding an account from which the patron then makes wagers on the horses by the means of (an) Internet site,” Cherry said.

Cherry said advanced deposit wagering is already done in parts of Indiana, specifically in the off-track betting winner’s circle in Indianapolis. Cherry also said account gambling was legal in Indiana nearly a decade ago, but was defeated when a 2005 bill strengthened laws against Internet gaming.

“This was erroneously removed when…former Sen. David Ford had a criminal statute curtail the illegal Internet gaming,” Cherry said. “And this wasn’t to be included in it, but it was.”

HB 1270 passed the House 81-15 late last month, much to the surprise of House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

“Seriously?” Bosma asked when only Cherry came to the microphone to talk about the legislation. “I’m not sure we understand the content of the bill.”

The bill did see some discussion in the Senate committee, but only to show support.

“This bill will help us particularly, the thoroughbreds, to achieve the vision that the Indiana General Assembly had in the first place,” said Michael Brown, executive director of the Indiana Horsemen Benevolent Protective Association.

However, some lawmakers were concerned Gov. Mike Pence might consider account wagering an expansion of gambling, which he opposes.

“Would this be in conflict with the governor’s stance of no expansion of gaming?” Sen. James Arnold, D-LaPorte, asked Cherry in the committee.

“You’ll have to ask the governor that,” Kenley said.

Supporters of the bill said they don’t think HB 1270 would conflict with Pence’s view on Indiana’s gambling industry.

“If this opened the door for things like using online accounts for poker or other things, that, in my mind, would be the expansion,” said Mike McDaniel, executive director of governmental affairs for the Krieg Devault legal group, said. “But this limits it to the horse racing, which is what we had prior to 2005.”

The bill passed the Senate Public Policy committee 9-0, and now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

Olivia Covington is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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