Indiana Lawmakers Scold State Gaming Regulators, Demand Changes

Posted on: December 21, 2023, 09:45h. 

Last updated on: December 21, 2023, 11:22h.

Indiana lawmakers reprimanded state gaming regulators for how they go about assessing fines and regulatory penalties during a state budget committee hearing on Tuesday.

Indiana Gaming Commission Greg Small
Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Greg Small is pushing back on criticism that the agency he oversees has excessively punished casinos for regulatory breaches. Indiana’s gaming industry has faced much scrutiny in recent years. (Image:

State Sen. Chris Garten (R-Charlestown) grilled members of the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) and threatened to impose changes if the regulatory body doesn’t quickly adjust how it reviews regulatory violations. Garten said just because casinos are profitable doesn’t give the commission the right to overly fine the businesses when they have legal mishaps.

It appears that the ideology is because casinos are profitable in Indiana, we should be able to fine them more,” said Garten, as first reported by the Indiana Capital Chronicle. “That doesn’t give you the right.”

Over the past seven years, the IGC has imposed more than $4.5 million in fines against the state’s 12 commercial riverboat and land-based casinos. Indiana is additionally home to a single Tribal casino that the IGC doesn’t regulate.

Hefty Fines

Under the state’s casino law, the IGC is permitted to assess punishments against its licensed gaming operators when they violate the conditions of the statute. Garten and other state lawmakers, including Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka), believe the fines handed down in recent years were excessive and subjective.

IGC Executive Director Greg Small defended his agency and said the levied financial reprimands are to encourage compliance among the casinos.

We have a mandate in statute that economic performance of the casinos and their hiring is of the utmost importance. We respect that,” Small said.

Small explained that the commission doesn’t believe its fines curtailed hiring or resulted in any casino being unprofitable.

The IGC imposes such fines for an array of reasons. Examples include a casino failing to prevent an underage person from accessing a casino, failing to withhold the winnings of a player who owes child support, or allowing a person on the state’s ineligible list to gamble.

Garten, who chairs the Joint Rules Committee, read aloud complaints submitted by the casinos regarding the IGC’s penalty assessments.

One comment expressed the casino’s opinion that Indiana is one of the more unfavorable regulatory markets in the U.S. Another voiced fears about “retribution” from the IGC.

The IGC’s workload has increased in recent years. Along with overseeing the launch of sports betting in the Hoosier State in 2019, the agency regulated the opening of three new casinos since 2017.

Calling Kettle Black?

Gaming controversies in Indiana haven’t been limited to internal workings at the IGC. Last month, a third former state lawmaker pleaded guilty to his role in a bribery scandal involving Spectacle Entertainment.

Former lawmaker John Keeler, who co-founded Spectacle in 2018, admitted to bribing Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Marion) and Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Morgan) with campaign money and promises of high-paying jobs upon their departure from elected office in exchange for favorable treatment.

Federal prosecutors said Waltz and Eberhart pushed legislation that allowed two of Spectacle’s casinos to relocate and move inland.

The IGC worked with the U.S. Department of Justice on the bribery probe. The scandal resulted in Indiana lawmakers saying they wouldn’t vote on gaming bills during their 2024 session.