Several measures involving gambling in Indiana have cleared their first hurdle – the House Public Policy Committee voted 10-2 to send House Bill 1540 on to a second committee. The bill includes provisions for land based gaming (up to 10 riverboats could move onto land near their current moorages) tax incentives would be formulated for new casino construction, live dealers would be allowed at two racinos, and the state would continue to subsidize “free play promotions” with state tax credits.
The next action before moving to the general assembly is the House Ways and Means Committee examining the bill for tax impacts and legality. Were it to make it through the next committee and both houses of congress it would still face an uncertain future on the governor’s desk. Republican Gov. Mike Pence, along with several lawmakers who have tanked similar bills in the past, are opposed to anything they see as an expansion of gambling in the state. So far the governor has not indicated whether he believes that moving the casinos onto more profitable positions on land would constitute “expanded gambling”.
If Ways and Means modifies the bill it will probably be sent back to Public Policy before going to the House of Representatives. Even there certain provisions, such as Live Dealers at the two horse racing casinos could be stripped before being sent to the Senate if operatives sense a better chance of the Governor allowing the casinos to escape costs associated with riverboats that competing casinos in other states do not face.
Since 2010 tax revenues from the 13 Indiana casinos have plummeted $185 million or about 28%. A further drop of 12% is forecast over the next two years under the current conditions.