Indiana Online Poker from a Legal Standpoint

Indiana isn’t a very big state, ranked 39th largest in the US, but it does pack in a lot of people with the 16th highest population of 6,570,902 (est. 2013). The Hoosier State has one of the most diverse economies in the nation, but is best known for its abundance of high-profile sports teams, both collegiate and professional grade. Up until 1988, gambling was prohibited in all forms, but when the 138 year old ‘lottery ban’ was lifted that year, it paved the way not just for an Indiana State Lottery, but the progression of other forms of gambling as well.

In 2012, research showed Indiana generated the 4th highest amount of revenue from gambling, behind Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania respectively. That includes a land-based and riverboat casino industry, pari-mutuel horse racing industry and the state-authorized lottery. Unfortunately, despite its prominence among US gambling destinations, Indiana has yet to undertake the task of regulating online poker. That alone doesn’t make playing poker online illegal. For that, we must examine the state’s current gambling statutes.

Land-based Gambling in Indiana

The Indiana State Lottery was the first form of gambling to hit the Hoosier State, followed shortly thereafter by the legalization of pari-mutuel horse racing tracks and riverboat casinos. Today, the state is home to 13 casinos and racinos, the majority of which are riverboat vessels. Only three gambling destinations are located on land, including its two racinos, Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs, plus the French Lick Casino Resort.

In reference to online poker, we can deduce that Indiana has no qualms with filling its tax coffers via gambling revenue.

Deciphering the Laws of Indiana as they relate to Online Poker

After scouring the Indiana Code as it relates to gambling, it took just two excerpts from the text to determine the legality of online poker in the state. A concise meaning is provided for each definition below.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
35-45-5 Gambling Sec 1. Definitions(d) “Gambling” means risking money or other property for gain, contingent in whole or in part on lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device… Specific games are not defined by Indiana state law. Since the definition includes “risking money…for gain…in whole or part… on chance”, poker must be included as a gambling activity.
Sec 2. Unlawful Gambling(a)    A person who knowingly or intentionally engages in gambling commits unlawful gambling.

(b)   Except as provided in subsection (c), unlawful gambling is a Class B misdemeanor.

(c)    An operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the Internet to engage in unlawful gambling:

(1)    In Indiana; or

(2)    With a person located in Indiana;

Commits a Level 6 felony.

Gambling itself isn’t illegal, unless defined in this section. Part (c) clearly states that Internet gambling (which would include poker by default due to the ambiguous definition of gambling) is unlawful.The penalty for playing online poker is a Level 6 felony, penalized by 6 months to 2.5 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000 as per the new sentencing guidelines in Indiana that went into effect on June 1, 2014.


Is Online Poker Illegal in Indiana?

Yes. Indiana Code is crystal clear on its assessment of real money online poker activities. There is no question as to whether it’s legal or not thanks to the distinct verbiage of IC 35-45-5-2, part (c). Not only did state officials take the time to expressly criminalize online poker and other forms of internet gambling, the penalty for committing such an offense has been set exorbitantly high – much higher than committing unlawful gambling in a brick-and-mortar establishment. Up to $10,000 in fines and 2 ½ years in prison is certainly not worth it.

Is Indiana working to Legalize Online Poker?

No. Although Indiana is one of the most lucrative land-based gambling destinations in the United States, there have been no moves to legalize or regulate online poker or any other forms of internet gambling. The most recent activity from the political front was a letter from Governor Michael Pence dated May 1, 2014 in which he beseeched members of the of the Indiana Congressional Delegation to follow his lead in supporting federal legislation to “restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act that prohibited Internet gambling nationwide”.

Suffice it to say; so long as Gov. Pence is in charge, an online poker bill in Indiana is beyond unlikely. On the other hand, if neighboring states were to adopt regulated internet poker, it could infringe upon Indiana’s locational domination of land-based gambling and force their hand into eventual legalization.

Online Poker Players from Indiana

Indiana was once brimming with professional online poker players, but since the state chose to proscribe the activity, the number of active participants has declined immensely. Some of the biggest names in professional live and online poker hailing from the Hoosier state include McLean “PureProfitFour” Karr and Jason “TheMasterJ33” Dewitt. Karr has nearly $1mm in online poker tournament cashes, plus $2.3mm in live cashes, while Dewitt has scooped over half a million playing online poker events, $1.8mm in live tourneys.

Land-Based Card Rooms in Indiana

Indiana hosts 13 casinos, but only three of them are traditional brick-and-mortar facilities. The rest are riverboat casinos, docked just off the coast in Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. The riverboat variety are generally omitted in this section, but because many of the state’s buoyant gambling destinations do offer poker rooms, you’ll find the complete list of Indiana casinos below.

French Lick Resort Casino
Location: French Lick, IN
Poker Room: No

Hoosier Park Racino
Location: Anderson, IN
Poker Room: No

Indiana Grand Casino at Indiana Downs
Location: Shelbyville, IN
Poker Room: Yes (e-tables only)

Ameristar Riverboat Casino
Location: East Chicago, IN
Poker Room: No

Belterra Casino (Riverboat)
Location: Florence, IN
Poker Room: No

Blue Chip Casino (Riverboat)
Location: Michigan City, IN
Poker Room: Yes

Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg (Riverboat)
Location: Lawrenceburg, IN
Poker Room: Yes

Horseshoe Southern Indiana (Riverboat)
Location: Elizabeth, IN
Poker Room: Yes

Horseshoe Casino (Riverboat)
Location: Hammond, IN
Poker Room: Yes

Majestic Star (Riverboat)
Location: Gary, IN
Poker Room: No

Majestic Star II (Riverboat)
Location: Gary, IN
Poker Room: No

Rising Star Casino Resort (Riverboat)
Location: Rising Sun, IN
Poker Room: No

Tropicana Evansville (Riverboat)
Location: Evansville, IN
Poker Room: Yes


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