As Expected, House GOP Slams Door on Live Table Games at Racinos
Negotiators, including Portland Rep. Bill Davis (3rd from left) and Crawfordsville Sen. Phil Boots (4th from left), discuss casino legislation. (WIBC.com file photo: Eric Berman)
House Republicans are making good on warnings they'll block attempts to allow live table games at the state's two horse-racing tracks.
Senator Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) went ahead and prepared a bill draft allowing racinos to add table games and riverboats to move inland. Three of the four negotiators have signed, but Representative Bill Davis (R-Portland) says making the racetracks full-fledged casinos is a deal-breaker for House Republicans. He says the agreement allowing slot machines at the tracks was designed to help the racing industry without doing so at the expense of the riverboat casinos.
The Indiana Gaming Commission has since allowed electronic versions of craps, blackjack and other table games. Boots and the racinos argue it's not an expansion of gambling to replace video dealers with live ones, and say it would create 600 jobs.
Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he believes including table games in the bill would invite a veto from Governor Pence.
But Bosma's not commenting on whether he'd block a bill allowing casinos to move inland.
Davis says negotiators are still working on other aspects of the bill. He says the focus needs to be on the original purpose of strengthening Indiana casinos against out-of-state competitors, not on what he suggests is a gaming industry wish list.
Davis says legislators are likely to give casinos a $5 million tax exemption for promotional "free play" coupons, though he says negotiators are toying with the idea of setting a four-year limit on the tax break to let legislators assess its effect. A proposal to replace the casino admissions tax with a revenue surtax is less likely to survive -- Davis says the admissions tax unfairly penalizes casinos when patrons leave and return, but says it may not be possible to change to a revenue tax without leaving some casinos worse off than before.