Racino Supporters Drop Bid to Legalize Table Games -- for Now
Anderson Reps. Terri Austin and Jack Lutz (front, l to r) and Shelbyville Rep. Sean Eberhart (rear, second from left) watch a committee hearing on the casino bill. (WIBC.com file photo: Eric Berman)
Legislators representing Indiana's two horse-racing tracks have dropped a bid to restore table games to a bill governing the tracks' casino annexes. But the proposal may mount one final comeback before the session's end.
Representative Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) pulled his amendment authorizing table games off the floor after a brief debate. He says he'll try again to insert the provision when House and Senate negotiators meet to discuss the final form of the bill.
The Senate approved table games for the racinos, who say they need it to compete with new casinos opening in neighboring states. But House Public Policy Chairman Bill Davis (R-Portland) deleted the provision before it reached the floor. Eberhart says it was important to debate the issue on the floor, but says he declined to seek a vote "out of respect for my chairman."
Anderson Representatives Jack Lutz (R) and Terri Austin (D) joined Eberhart in arguing racino table games like blackjack and roulette would create 600 new jobs in their communities. Since the racinos already offer electronic versions of those games, they argue there's no expansion of gambling involved.
But Representative Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) says he's concerned the legislature has gotten away from the original rationale for slot machines, to help Indiana's horse breeding and racing industries.
Eberhart isn't saying whether he believes the votes are there in the House, but notes the House-Senate conferences are the time when different pieces of legislation are shuffled in and out to line up something with majority support. The House has intertwined the casino bill with a proposal to set aside a $10 million loan fund for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other motorsports operations around the state.