Casinos Bill Moves To Indiana Senate
February 26, 2015 –Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports.
INDIANAPOLIS – After undergoing several changes to its original content, a bill that allows Indiana’s riverboat casinos to move onto land and authorizes live dealers at racinos passed the Indiana House of Representatives on Wednesday.
House Bill 1540, authored by Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, allows riverboat casinos to build on their existing land footprints, creates a tax credit for existing casinos to build hotels and other accommodations on their properties, and gives racinos the ability to convert half of their electronic table game machines to live dealing stations.
“I think we came up with some common sense proposals,” Dermody said. “We want to create destination points, not just gaming facilities.”
The House Ways and Means Committee added a provision to the bill before it hit the House floor that would have scrapped the current revenue agreement between local communities and gambling entities and required them to renegotiate a contract.
The committee also eliminated the casino admissions tax and a supplemental state payment which collectively generates $90 million yearly for local governments.
Because of the impact the bill threatened to have on local communities, House Republican leadership backed away from the changes and amended it to no longer include those provisions.
The amendment essentially rewrote the bill to exclude the changes to the admissions tax and the local government and casino agreements, as well as live dealers at the state’s two racinos – Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Grand in Shelbyville.
However, lawmakers did pass a second amendment to reinstate the live dealers clause.
Since its introduction, the legislation has caused several lawmakers to question what exactly constitutes a gambling expansion – one of whom being House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
Bosma said he voted against the amendment to allow live dealers because the state is “in deep” and he is “not willing to sell the state’s soul to get in deeper.”
Even Gov. Mike Pence got involved in the discussion, privately telling Bosma he views live dealers as an expansion of gambling – something he has regularly opposed but not publicly defined.
Bosma did say Wednesday, after the passage of the bill, that allowing riverboats to move onto land “makes some sense and keeps those venues competitive.”
Jason Gregorec, general manager of the Tropicana riverboat casino in Evansville, said he is pleased by the House vote and hopes the bill makes it through the Senate and into law.
“It is very encouraging for us because our number one agenda is to go land-based,” Gregorec said. “It’s progress. The bill is moving so we are happy with that.”
Gregorec also said his casino has already begun to design a land-based facility that would be located within its footprint next to the existing hotel and parking structure.
The bill passed 75-18 and now moves to the Senate, where President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said it will get a hearing. He said the key debate will be what constitutes an expansion of gambling.