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Gambling Bill Passes House, but Supporters Want Changes in Final Version

House, Senate negotiators must reach deal by next week

(INDIANAPOLIS) - A casino bill has overwhelmingly passed the House, but legislators have a lot of complaints they want fixed in a final version.

The House passed its version 78-15. But some legislators object to a 50-million-dollar fee for moving Gary's casino from Lake Michigan to downtown. Others want to restore a provision from the Senate version of the bill, authorizing live dealers at the racetrack casinos.

Terre Haute Republican Alan Morrison says while he supports a casino for his hometown, the process to get it is so convoluted that he predicts it would never happen under the House version. The bill requires the Indiana Gaming Commission to pick three finalists for the casino license, who would then submit sealed bids. If there aren't at least two bidders, the casino would go on hold.

And Morrison contends the House is making a mistake by prohibiting sports betting by smartphone. Of the eight states with sports betting already, Morrison says only Mississippi requires you to place your wager at a casino.

Anderson Democrat Terri Austin calls the bill "a total work in progress." But she says legislators can't afford to let the clock run out on the session without at least approving sports betting. She says 18 states are looking at legalizing sports bets, and says if Indiana doesn't do so this year, next year's 10-week session is too short to get it done before 2021. Austin warns that would allow other states to get a jump in Indiana, while the state watches an estimated $300 million in illegal sports betting change hands without benefiting the state.

East Chicago Democrat Mara Candelaria-Reardon was one of the few legislators to vote against the bill. She complains Hammond's Horseshoe Casino has poured millions of dollars into improvements, only to see Gary's Majestic Star try to change the rules by staking out a more lucrative location near a highway interchange.

House and Senate negotiators have until next week to agree on a final version and get it through both chambers.

(Photo: lucadp/Thinkstock)

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