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Casino Bill Faces Uncertain Future

Legislators already differ on whether the bill amounts to an expansion of gambling.

Aztar Riverboat

Photo: Bill Shaw/WTIU News

The Aztar Riverboat is one of several casinos on the Ohio River. A new bill would allow riverboat casinos to move inland.

A bill to allow land-based casinos in Indiana faces unclear prospects if it reaches Governor Mike Pence‘s desk.

Pence says he does not want Indiana to expand gambling or shrink it. But he is not revealing how that stance fits with a bill to let riverboat casinos move inland, and add table games to the slot-machine rooms at the state‘s two horse-racing tracks.

Legislators already differ on whether the bill amounts to an expansion of gambling. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says it is, and faces opposition in the House as a result. He says allowing waterfront casinos to move inland would expand gambling, because there‘d be no justification left for denying casinos elsewhere.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) argues the riverboats would be the same casinos they were before. He concedes turning the racinos into full-fledged casinos would expand gambling, but argues that expansion is insignificant.

“We‘ve tried to craft it in such a way that it‘s really not a significant expansion of gaming and really does not cost the taxpayers much,” he says.

The casinos themselves contend even the racino upgrade is not an expansion, because they offer electronic poker and blackjack already.

The bill also includes tax changes the casinos have sought, including replacing an admissions tax with a flat tax on revenue, and eliminating taxation of promotional “free plays” given out to lure customers.

Network Indiana

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