INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Complicated negotiations seem to await a legislative
proposal aimed at helping Indiana’s casinos face increased competition from
neighboring states after the Indiana House on Monday approved a much leaner
proposal than what previously cleared the Senate.
The House voted 73-17 to advance the casino bill shortly after it narrowly
approved a separate bill allowing state assistance toward perhaps $100
million improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and use of some
casino money to boost motorsports businesses elsewhere in the state.
The House-approved casino bill would allow the state’s 13 casinos to deduct
a portion of cost of free gambling given to patrons in promotions, which is
estimated to cost the state about $16 million a year when fully implemented.
A House committee dropped provisions that the Senate had approved to allow
live table games such as blackjack and roulette at the horse track casinos
in Anderson and Shelbyville where only electronic versions of those games
are now allowed. The House version also doesn’t follow the Senate in
allowing the 10 riverboat casinos along Lake Michigan or the Ohio River to
build new in-land facilities on their adjacent properties.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and others House leaders have said they
oppose such steps as an expansion of gambling - as has Republican Gov. Mike
The question of allowing table games with live dealers and real cards at the
two horse track casinos is an issue that Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville,
said he would continue to push as House and Senate negotiators work to reach
a compromise version over the next two weeks before the Legislature’s April
29 adjournment deadline.
Eberhart said the state needs to wake up about the additional competition
the casinos are facing. He pointed to a 25 percent drop in revenue at two
southeastern Indiana casinos in the first month after a new downtown
Cincinnati casino opened.
The state is anticipating a 15 percent drop in casino tax collections during
the coming years - from $614 million last year to about $520 million for the
2015 budget year.
“We could have been proactive a few years ago,” Eberhart said. “We failed to
take those steps and continued to count the golden egg from the golden
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, has been the Senate sponsor of the casino
bill and said Monday he doesn’t think the House proposal goes far enough to
help preserve the thousands of casino jobs around the state.
“There are some that don’t want to expand gambling,” Boots said. “That’s not
our goal - it’s just to maintain what we’ve got.”
The House proposal would take $5 million a year in casino tax revenue and
direct it to a new motorsports investment fund to help auto racing-related
businesses around the state. That plan was added by a House committee as it
considered a request for state assistance for the Indianapolis Motor
The bill would create a motorsports district for the speedway, with growth
in income and sales tax collections from the track and a new ticket fee
going toward paying off a loan arranged by the state.