A bill allowing live dealers at race track casinos, letting river boat casinos move on land, giving a 10% tax break for new casino construction, and continuing a tax break for casinos to offer free play easily passed the Indiana House Wednesday by a margin of 76 to 19 with 4 excused and 1 not voting. A measure that was added in the Ways and Means committee, abolishing the admissions tax and other breaks for the casinos worth about $200 million was stripped from the bill after it was pulled from the floor on Monday.

The live dealer provision might be a deal-breaker and kill the bill when the Senate votes on it. If it passes it will still face an almost certain veto from Governor Mike Pence, as he has indicated he believes that measure constitutes an expansion of gambling in the state.

If the bill passes and is signed into law the ten licensed river boat casinos will be able to abandon their docks and move completely on land within their current footprints. Maritime costs associated with seaworthy crews on boats that never venture away from land have reportedly been crippling the casinos and making them less competitive in the regional market.

The stripped tax provisions would have dealt a hard blow to local communities that host the river boat casinos taking about $200 million from their coffers annually.

The two race tracks that hope to replace some of their electronic table games with live dealers are Indiana Grand Casino in Shelbyville and Hoosier Park in Anderson. Unaffected by the bill is Indiana‘s only current land based casino, French Lick Casino Resort.

House Bill 1540 was authored by Rep. Thomas Dermody and will be carried in the senate by two Republicans and one Democrat; Senators Ron Alting, Luke Kenley, and Jim Arnold.

A full digest of the bill follows:
Various gaming matters. Authorizes riverboats to move inland to adjacent properties meeting certain requirements. Extends the availability of the promotional play deduction for riverboats and racinos until July 1, 2018. Makes the following changes concerning a riverboat located in a historic hotel district: (1) Provides the operating agent greater access to money in the West Baden Springs historic hotel preservation and maintenance fund. (2) Exempts the riverboat from the admissions tax. (3) Provides that the riverboat is subject to a wagering tax of 5% of the riverboat’s adjusted gross receipts (AGR) rather than the graduated tax imposed under current law. (4) Requires a racino licensee to pay a $2,500,000 historic hotel district community support fee and allocates the fee among the communities and schools in the area and the Indiana economic development corporation. Authorizes table games at the racinos. Provides for the use of AGR attributable to table games to support the horse racing industry. Establishes the Indiana gaming investment tax credit for certain capital investments. Repeals a requirement that the gaming commission study the use of complimentary promotional credit programs. Urges the legislative council to assign an interim study committee to the study of the use of gaming revenue as a funding source of local government. Makes an appropriation.

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