Indiana News

Anderson, Shelby County Racinos Could Become Full-Fledged Casinos

Bill advances to Senate; casinos seek broader tax break for promotions

2/14/2013

Indiana casinos could get a vote in the Senate as early as next week on a bill to strengthen them against out-of-state competitors.

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The bill authored by Senator Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) would let racetrack slot-machine rooms become full-fledged casinos, and let the so-called riverboat casinos move inland. But casinos' top priority is a more technical change: exempting promotional free plays from wagering taxes.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has capped that exemption at two-million dollars for each casino, applicable only to out-of-state customers. Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says he's trying to address the concerns of senators opposed to expanding gambling in Indiana.

Senators are also concerned about a budget analysis of the original bill which calculated it could siphon as much as $235 million from the two-year state budget. Along with capping the tax break, Kenley's revision nudges the wagering tax to 3.45% instead of 2.5%. The new flat tax would replace the current $3-a-customer admissions tax, which casinos complain creates a disincentive to try to expand their customer base.

Casino Association of Indiana president Mike Smith says he's "appreciative" the bill has gotten to the floor after years of trying, but says he'll continue lobbying to expand the free-play exemption. He says the $2 million tax credit represents barely 1% of the promotional plays casinos give out each year.

State analysts have echoed casinos' warning they're at risk of losing business to new casinos opening in Ohio and Michigan, and potentially in Illinois and Kentucky.

The Appropriations Committee voted 8-4 to send the bill to the floor.

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