Indiana News

Casino Bill Still Faces Opposition From Gaming Foes, Fiscal Hawks

Long: Adding live table games at racinos would make them full casinos

1/25/2013

A bill rewriting Indiana casino regulations cleared its first hurdle without any dissenting votes. But opposition may be coming on two fronts.

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The Senate Public Policy Committee has voted unanimously to allow live table games at racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelby County approved it unanimously. Senate President Pro Tem David Long says that's an expansion of gambling, something that's been a red line for legislators for years. Long says some gambling opponents in the Senate will oppose the measure on that basis alone.

Public Policy Chairman Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) has insisted the bill doesn't expand gambling, since the racinos already have electronic versions of blackjack, craps and roulette. Long does agree with Alting that allowing supposed riverboat casinos to move inland would not expand gambling.

But Long says the more serious opposition to the bill is likely to center on its fiscal impact. A legislative analysis calculates changes in how casinos are taxed would cost the state at least 150-million dollars over the next two years, and possibly as much as 235-million. That analysis is likely to take center stage at the bill's next stop, in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Long says it's clear that if legislators do nothing, the casinos and the state will take a financial hit from new casinos springing up in Ohio and Michigan, and possibly Illinois and Kentucky as well. He says legislators have to decide whether the casino industry deserves a hand, and what form it should take. And Long warns that decision is complicated by the casinos' difficulty in agreeing amongst themselves. He notes competing Lake County casinos have squabbled over whether Gary should be allowed to move a casino off the lakefront and into downtown, while the racino expansion poses a potential threat to French Lick, currently the state's only land-based casino.

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