The State of Indiana’s Gambling Laws

Is Online Poker or Betting Legal in the State Of Indiana?

Indiana offer gambling on riverboat casinos and race-track ‘racinos’ to their residents – though are very strict on gamblers who step outside of the licensed venues. There is no provision for social gambling, and – unusually – participants in illegal games have been charged in the past along with the organizers. This page covers gambling laws in Indiana in depth.

There is a quick-fire history of gambling in this State first, containing all the major landmark events. After this you can read a game-by-game overview of what is legal and what is not when it comes to gambling. Next some key passages from the Indiana statutes, and a chronology of events is discussed – before a quick summary and look into the future at the end.

Indiana Gambling Laws – A Brief History

Indiana appeared keen to keep gambling under control right from the beginning, with a crack-down on the then prevalent lotteries part of their initial constitution. This did not stop gambling of course, the golden age of mob organized speakeasies and smoky unregulated riverboat casinos would soon begin.

The hunger of residents for gambling became apparent during the 1980s, when their new lottery proved to be an instant success and casino gambling was voted for in a referendum with a huge 60% majority. This kicked of battles within the legislature. Progressive politicians would get bills passed, only to see the Republican leadership shoot them back down again.

It would be 1993 – and the extraordinary circumstances of an emergency legislation session – before a casino bill was finally passed. This licensed 5 riverboat casinos through the State, with the proviso that they were sailing when the games were being played. This is still the total of casinos in Indiana, though they are now safely docked. Horse-racing tracks have also been expanded, with 2,000 slots each in the 2 legal racetrack venues.

Just as things appear to be progressing nicely for Indiana, they took an apparent backwards step. In 2006 the use of the internet for gambling was specifically added to the wording in the Statutes. While this does not preclude regulated internet poker completely, it does at least appear to make this more difficult to get passed in Indiana than in many other States who do not specifically mention it.

One small bright spark is the 2011 bill authorizing one land-based casino complex. This is in response to many people traveling to neighboring States to enjoy their casinos instead. We have yet to see the benefit of this new legislation. The other forms of gambling which Indianans can enjoy are a State lottery and charity gambling games including bingo and raffles.

What Forms Of Gambling Are Currently Legal?

Casino Games: Yes, Indiana has a handful of riverboat casinos. These used to be restricted to offering games while on the move, though now remain docked. These are luxurious establishments, offering a full range of table games and 1000’s of slots.

Online Casinos: No, in 2005 Indiana enacted legislation specifically banning gambling on the internet – this is one of the few States (along with Utah and Washington) to do this.

Live Poker: Yes, you can enjoy poker games at the casinos, all of which have poker rooms and offer tournaments as well as cash games. Unusually, there is no carve-out for social poker games in this State, and in the past individual players have been indicted as well as the organizers. While individuals are only put on misdemeanor charges, Indiana has severe penalties for those organizing the games.

Online Poker: No, this is specifically banned – though several offshore sites continue to offer games to Indiana residents.

Sports Betting: Only pari-mutuel betting at licensed horse racing tracks is possible, these venues also offer electronic gaming machines.

Lottery Betting: Yes, residents enjoy a lottery and also participate in the inter-state games such as the Powerball.

Bingo Games: Yes, these are allowed for charities – though need to be individually licensed.

Indiana Gambling Laws – Key Statutes and Legal Timeline

There are two interesting features of the legal Statutes of this State where gambling is concerned. Firstly, there is no distinction between games of chance and skill – it is the betting (risking money / property) which is outlawed, as in this excerpt from IC 35-45-5-1:

“Gambling” means risking money or other property for gain, contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device… Section 35-45-5-1

Secondly, the internet is singled out, with a list of slots and traditional gambling games specifically mentioned – followed by a ‘catch all’ clause at the end of the section, note that this also includes bookmaking:

(b) An operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the Internet to: …conduct any banking or percentage games played with the computer equivalent of cards, dice, or counters, or accept any fixed share of the stakes in those games: Section 35-45-5-3

Note that this is aimed at the operators, rather than the players of these games.

Below is a legal timeline for Indiana gambling:

1851: Initial constitution includes a ban on lotteries.

1988: Indiana’s State lottery, known as the Hoosier Lottery kicks off – profits from this go to good causes.

1989: Referendum sees 60% of residents vote for legal casino gambling, only to be blocked by the Republican leadership in 1990.

1991: Proposal to license riverboat casinos passes the house, only to be rejected by a Senate committee.

1993: After more failed attempts, licensing for up to 5 riverboat casinos was given during an emergency session required to balance the State books. It was hoped that these would raise up to $100 million each year in taxes.

1994: Hoosier Park horse racing track opens, offering on-track pari-mutuel betting on their races, a year later the first of 5 licensed remote horse race betting sites would open in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Merrillville. The Indiana Downs track would open in 2002.

2006: Statutes amended to include wording which specifically targets using the internet for online gambling. The wording targets operators of gambling games and websites.

2007: 2000 slot machines are permitted at each of the racecourses, turning these into ‘Raceinos’.

2011: Bill passed to expand casinos with the licensing of a ‘dry-land’ venue. We have yet to see any benefit from this as of early 2014.

Indiana Gambling Laws – Summary and a Look to the Future

Indiana does have casinos, but they are very strict in clamping down on anyone trying to gamble outside of their narrow regulated games. The riverboat casinos can now offer games while safely docked, and discussions do crop up from time to time on whether the expand casinos onto dry land. History shows us that even measures on gambling which pass with a reasonable majority are likely to be struck down.

With specific anti-gambling laws relating to the internet, I can’t see Indiana being an early adopter of internet gambling legislation. As with many of the more restrictive States, the best hope here is probably to see online poker games raking in revenues for surrounding States first – and then hope that Indiana decide to take a piece of the pie for themselves.

Useful Resources:

Indiana Gambling Codes

Timeline (Problem Gambling Resource Site)

US Gambling Laws Summary

News – Inter-State Competition