Mobile wagering and the use of official data dominated the Indiana sports betting discussion Wednesday at a House Public Policy Committee hearing on S 552, the omnibus gambling expansion bill passed by the Senate in February.
Sports betting language in the IN sports betting bill allows for statewide mobile and online wagering with in-person registration. Stakeholders unanimously spoke to the importance of mobile in a successful marketplace, though none touched on the in-person requirement.
Andrew Winchell of FanDuel Sportsbook asserted that the black-market success of sports betting is largely due to ease of use.
“Very few customers will go through the hassle of driving to a casino each time they want to place a sports bet when they can use an offshore website from the comfort of their home,” Winchell said.
Strong support for mobile IN sports betting
He added that $385 million was wagered in New Jersey in January compared to $35 million in Mississippi, with New Jersey's mobile aspect a fundamental difference between the markets.
Mark Miles, representing IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, attested that mobile betting will be an important part of fan engagement at the track.
Matt Bell of the Casino Association of Indiana noted that a study ordered last year by the Indiana Gaming Commission suggested 57 percent of the Indiana sports betting market in the first year would be through mobile, increasing to 65 percent by the fifth year.
Dave Miller, representing the PGA Tour, stated that $6.5 billion is wagered illegally in Indiana, mostly from phones.
“In this day and age, people expect to do everything on their phones, including bet on sports,” Miller said.
Leagues push for official data mandate
Language in the Indiana sports betting bill mandates the use of official data from the sports leagues for in-game bets.
Miller spoke harshly against non-league data, which he claimed was obtained in one of two ways:
- Courtsiding: Data scouts, often in disguise, who transmit data covertly from arenas and stadiums
- Scraping: Offshore companies stealing data from official league sites through tracking tools
“These groups – these data scouts, the courtsiders, the scrapers – they really operate in the shadows,” Miller said. “They don’t have any real vested interest in the integrity of sport. They’re supplying data to operators that the state is trying to eliminate, and I just don’t think these groups have any place in a legal, regulated market.”
Bell countered that sports wagering already is estimated to be a multi-billion enterprise worldwide, with very few requirements to use official data across the world.
“I would suggest to you that, at the level of wagering today, if there were integrity problems that have ensued we would read about them all over the place – it would be very evident,” Bell said. “As operators, we have a profound interest that any data we would use is accurate and reliable. As an industry, we don’t simply sit people in garages, call them and ask them what the scores were in games.”
Leagues say official data needed for in-game
Miles and Indianapolis Colts chief legal officer Don Emerson stressed the importance of official data for in-game wagers.
“Without a single resolution by way of the governing body of the particular sport, you run the risk of conflicting results,” Emerson said.
Miles contended that official data for in-race wagering is particularly important, as there are no breaks in a race.
“I don’t know how it’s possible to offer in-race betting without it. We have at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 44 line cuts around that 2.5 mile oval, and all the cars have the equipment necessary that we can pull data off each car each time it passes one of those 44 cuts. That means we collect 80 million data points in real time during the Indianapolis 500.”
Indiana legislators push back on official data
Rep. Sean Eberhart responded to the league claims by noting that Nevada has had sports betting for decades without requiring the use of official league data. No other state that has legal sports betting has made that requirement.
Bell pleaded with legislators to allow operators to negotiate with teams and leagues privately rather than creating a monopoly on data.
“In an instance which you create only one provider of data, if someone wants to corrupt that there’s only one entity to corrupt,” Bell said. “I would argue that you increase the opportunity for corruption when you limit the sources of data that can be used.”
Miller stated that the leagues have no intention of using a requirement for official league data to demand exorbitant sums from Indiana sportsbooks. He offered a compromise that the leagues would accept some oversight from the state on pricing.
“With respect to the charges for official data, we have no intent to use some monopoly power to extort bookmakers and charge unreasonable prices,” Miller said. “We would fully accept some requirement that the league price the data reasonably or the requirement would be void.”
The rest of the IN hearing
Most of the four hours of testimony on the bill focused on the movement of two existing riverboat casinos in Gary, one inland in the same region and one to Terry Haute. This would provide space for an economic development project along the port in Gary.
Other provisions of the Indiana sports betting bill would allow the state's two racinos to use live table dealers this year rather than waiting until 2021, and remove the two-license limit on the number of casinos a company may own in the state.
Other than a few problem gambling organizations that were neutral, all the witnesses who spoke on the topic came out in favor of legalizing Indiana sports betting.
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