The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 24, 2020 1:00 am

Gambling law's scope concerns lawmakers

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – You might think “1917” is the best movie of the year – and now you can put $20 down for it to win the Oscar for best picture.

The addition to Indiana's newly legal sports wagering has surprised lawmakers who approved the activity last year, and is also calling into question what other events might become legal to bet on.

For instance, what's the over/under on the number of seats Republicans will win in the U.S. Senate? Will Gov. Eric Holcomb earn a second term? Does embattled GOP Attorney General Curtis Hill win his convention fight?

“I would certainly hope they wouldn't go there,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said. “I don't think it's appropriate to bet on elections.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray also ardently opposed the idea – “we don't need to be betting on elections. That's not a responsible thing to do.”

But it is possible under existing law.

Sara Tait, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, said the commission recently approved a request by DraftKings and FanDuel to offer wagering on the 2020 Academy Awards. Hoosiers can bet at Indiana's casinos or related mobile betting apps.

State law defines sports wagering as wagering conducted on athletic and sporting events involving human competitors and “other events” approved by the commission.

New Jersey first approved the Oscars for online gambling, and Indiana's commission conducted a review and determined the request met state law.

Two key requirements are that the outcome of the contest cannot be known and that there are integrity protections.

Bray said he isn't entirely comfortable with the Oscars betting because someone with the Oscars or the accounting firm has the answer to the bet, while no one knows who will win the Super Bowl. 

He acknowledged the legislature might need to tighten the language. 

Tait said wagering on politics could potentially be covered under the permissible language in statute but she was unaware of any U.S. jurisdiction that allows it so far. 

“For the foreseeable future, you should not expect to see us be the first to approve unique wagers. We gather as much data as possible before making decisions, and in the case of political wagering there's no data,” she said.

Federal law used to prohibit betting on elections but that law was the same one struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court – leading to sports betting around the nation now.

Betting on elections and politics already happens online and in other countries.

Bosma said legislators didn't know they would be allowing Oscar voting and “I certainly hope no one goes in the direction of elections. I'm more concerned about people voting than placing a bet on the vote.”

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne didn't have a problem with adding the Oscars as an allowable bet.

“We are a gaming state and if we are going to continue to compete with other gaming states and states around us we have to keep up with stuff like that,” he said.

But he paused when considering elections – saying he would have to think about whether that's appropriate.

“People ask me all the time to predict outcomes of elections and I'm terrible at it. I would never do that,” he said.

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