Legislators Struggle With How To Help Casinos Compete Without Expanding Gambling

Jan 12, 2015

Credit Adam Tinworth / https://www.flickr.com/photos/adders/

Legislative leaders haven't decided how to deal with proposals to loosen restrictions on how Indiana casinos operate.

A summer study committee endorsed allowing the two racetrack casinos to add live dealers, and letting riverboats move their gaming operations onto land. Governor Pence, Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma have all said they oppose expanding gambling, but Bosma and Long agree there's no consensus on just what constitutes expansion.

Long says at a minimum, the state needs to look at ways to make sure the casino industry doesn‘t lose ground.

"There are some things we can do to help the industry, that really does need some help as far as the competition, it seems, from Ohio and Michigan and potentially Illinois now very soon," says Long. "It's not an insignificant source of revenue for the state at a time when we're trying to put more money in our schools."

Bosma notes he ended up supporting the addition of slot machines at the racetracks because then-Governor Mitch Daniels paired it with a crackdown on illegal video-gambling terminals in bars.

Long says there will have to be "high-level discussions" on how to define expansion and what to do to help the gaming industry. Long says casinos have to be able to compete against stepped-up competition from out of state to preserve the revenue stream that helps support the state budget.

Bosma says the state has to be willing to accept less gaming revenue if that's the price of holding the line on expansion.