Indiana Poker And Gambling Laws

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Indiana Is One Of Nine States That Expressly Forbids Internet Gambling

Indiana, center of America’s heartland, is known for kids growing up playing basketball, family farms that have been in operation for generations, and a blue-collar work ethic that signifies the spirit of its people. The Hoosier State also happens to be one of only nine states that has a written law forbidding online gambling. However, despite the clear-cut wording of Internet gambling laws, Indiana residents have plenty of options at their disposal when it comes to gambling. Commercial casinos, charitable gaming, pari-mutuel wagering, and a state lottery are all legal in Indiana. But the question remains whether Indiana will continue to turn its back on online gambling or take a closer look at legalization in the interest of the additional revenue that fully regulated Internet gambling could produce for the state.

Indiana Code 35-45-5-2[1] states that any person who engages in gambling is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. However, the punishment becomes more severe for “an operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the Internet to engage in unlawful gambling” whether in Indiana or with someone located in Indiana. Such an offense is classified as a Class D felony. And it doesn’t stop there. The Indiana Code also finds felonious activity to be bookmaking, maintaining an online gambling site, employing any form of lottery game online, and conducting “any banking percentage games played with the computer equivalent of cards, dice, or counters, or accept any fixed share of the stakes in those games.”

The law is on the books, but that doesn’t necessarily mean gamblers in Indiana are paying attention to it. Enforcement of unlawful Internet gambling is difficult, and the increased pressure on every state legislature, including Indiana’s, continues to mount as states such as Nevada, which has already enacted online poker legislation, or New Jersey and Illinois, who are considering online gambling regulations of their own. But Indiana Rep. Bill Davis, chair of the House public policy committee, isn’t sure the plunge into legalized online gambling is the wave Indiana needs to ride at the moment. “It’s one thing if you have to make a decision to drive down to Lawrenceburg or up to Gary–you’ve made a conscious decision to do so,” Davis said. “It’s another if we’ve made it so easy as you flip a button on your computer.”

Interestingly enough, Herb Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers pro basketball team, is a major investor in California-based U.S. Digital Gaming Inc., a company that provides software, technology and security systems for online gambling operators[2]. However, with the state legislature in Indiana not yet considering such online gambling measures, it seems unlikely that U.S. Digital Gaming will be offering its services in Simon’s hometown of Indiana anytime soon.

The most recent gambling legislation of any kind to take place in the Indiana legislature was February, 2018’s Senate Bill 315, which called for changes that would make the process of obtaining licensing for charity gaming events easier as long as the organizations hosting such events meet the necessary requirements. The changes would call for only one license that encompasses all forms of charity gaming, and the minimum two-month wait for a license would be whittled down to each organization giving only 21 days notice to the Indiana Gaming Commission. The changes also would eliminate the requirement for volunteer personal information to be given to the commission.[3]

Indiana’s History of Gambling

From The “Long Beach Turf Exchange” To The “Big House” To Riverboats And Lottery Tickets

In 1901, the Long Beach Turf Exchange hauled gamblers from Chicago via a special train to the “only Monte Carlo in America,” and promised no “interference” from authorities on the local or state levels. Despite its description of being “a castle protected by stockades, barbed wire, and picket fences” and having “armed lookouts in sentry boxes,” the Long Beach Turf Exchange was so big and it got so much publicity that it met its demise within months of its opening when it was shut down by state authorities. Indiana also was home to one of the most famous gambling houses that serviced gamblers from Chicago’s south side. East Chicago, Indiana was home to a full service casino dubbed the “Big House” which operated from 1929 to 1950. It offered a taxi service to and from Chicago and boasted upscale gaming tables such as craps and roulette. It also served as the central location for bookie activity in the surrounding area. Perhaps most interesting, however, is where the Big House moniker came from. It was reported that the casino received backing from none other than Al Capone’s right-hand man, Frank Nitti. The Big House closed in 1950, but there were already other gambling establishments primed and ready to take its place. The 825 Club opened in 1949 and operated until the 1970s. The club stayed open thanks to arrangements with local authorities, who would often tip off casino operators when a raid was about to occur. The 825 Club also kept a lookout post toward the front lobby and the rear door had a two-way mirror, just in case.[4]

Since then, Indiana has established the Hoosier Lottery, which passed with 62 percent approval in a November, 1988 vote. The Indiana General Assembly ratified the Lottery Act in May, 1989, and the first scratch-off tickets were sold in October, 1989. Four more games were introduced the next year. In 2011 alone, the lottery awarded more than $494 million in prizes to the state’s lottery players and $230 million combined to the Build Indiana Fund, the Teacher’s Retirement Fund, and to the Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund. Since the lottery began, it has brought in $4 billion in income for the state of Indiana.[5]

After the inception of the Hoosier Lottery, horse racing got a boost when Hoosier Park opened in September, 2004. Then in 2005, five cities in Indiana opened off-track horse betting parlors. All horse racing in Indiana is regulated by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. Before horse racing took off, Indiana also passed the Riverboat Gaming Act in July, 1993. The measure allowed ten riverboats to operate at a time, and the first one opened in 1995. By 2004, legislation was in place to add to that number. Currently Indiana has 13 casinos in operation–three land-based and 10 riverboats.[6]

Future Gambling Legislation In Indiana Likely Dependent On Other States Moving First

In a state with full service riverboat casinos, racetracks, a thriving lottery, and recently relaxed laws governing charitable gaming, the Indiana legislature is no stranger to consideration of laws on gambling. But Indiana lawmakers have not yet taken much of an interest in considering online gambling as an additional source of income for the state. If they ever did, the current regulations prohibiting online gambling would have to be completely re-written. But as the momentum of Internet gambling continues to build, and other pro-gambling states push harder to be among the first to legalize online gambling, Indiana will be forced to decide whether it will join other states in taking a chance on online gambling legalization and the potential payout it could bring.


[1] Indiana Code 35-45-5 –
[2] Herb Simon banking on regulated online gambling in the USA – The Indiana Business Journal
[3] Indiana State legislature pass second charity gaming vote – National Rifle Association ILA Group
[4] A history of gambling in East Chicago, Indiana –
[5] Benefits of the state lottery in Indiana –
[6] Indiana State’s Gaming History –