In Indiana, recently-proposed legislation that would permit the city of Terre Haute to host a casino complete with up to 700 slots and 17 gaming tables has reportedly been scheduled for a preliminary committee hearing.
According to a report from the Tribune-Star newspaper, Senate Bill 354 was introduced by local Indiana State Senator Jon Ford earlier this month and proposes to allow casino operator Full House Resorts Incorporated to relocate up to half of the games licensed for its Rising Star Casino Resort to a new facility in Terre Haute.
Ford earlier declared that Terre Haute is an ideal location for a new casino because it lies at least two hours away from similar gaming operations in Indiana and Illinois with the closest being French Lick Resort Casino around 108 miles away in Orange County. The Rising Star Casino Resort is some 176 miles away while Inside Indiana Business previously reported that the legislator believes a gambling enterprise in the city of 60,000 could moreover help to ensure the long-term viability of the existing Ohio County facility, which has been suffering from reduced revenues.
The Tribune-Star reported that it is unclear how much support currently exists for Ford’s proposal although the Republican stated that he believes the prospects are good while noting that the current legislative session is due to run until April.
“I couldn’t put a percentage on it,” Ford told the newspaper.
However, the Tribune-Star explained that the Indiana State Senate is set to consider nearly 600 pieces of legislation during its present sitting in Indianapolis while there 700 measures before the lower Indiana House Of Representatives.
“The governor is sharply focused on his agenda and budget, which do not include gambling,” Stephanie Wilson, Press Secretary for new Indiana governor Eric Holcomb, told the newspaper.
Holcomb was elected in November as a replacement for predecessor Mike Pence, who is now United States Vice-President, with Wilson reportedly proclaiming that the 48-year-old Republican is “aware of everything that’s working through” but is “very focused on the five issues that are part of his legislative agenda”.
Ford told the Tribune-Star that the governor’s statement in advance of Senate Bill 354’s hearing before the Indiana State Senate Public Policy Committee is “standard operating procedure” and that he wouldn’t expect preliminary gubernatorial support unless the legislation formed “part of his agenda”.
“We don’t know how much support there is,” Indiana State Senator Ron Alting, who is Chairman for the Indiana State Senate Public Policy Committee, told the newspaper. “That’s why you have a hearing. We’ll listen to both sides and then rest on it and then take it from there.”
Atling told the Tribune-Star that his fellow legislators could be particularly keen to ensure that any new casino in Terre Haute would not adversely impact the Midwestern state’s pair of racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.
“Overall, I am a big advocate of the casino industry,” Alting told the newspaper. “I’ve carried bills to promote and assist our casinos for 19 years. But, you know it’s a fine line you are on in gaining something by doing something for one and then it hurts another. We need to always think and be ahead of the game and we haven’t always done that in Indiana.”
Matt Bergbower, an associate political science professor at Indiana State University, told the Tribune-Star that Holcomb’s non-committal stance is similar to that often taken by predecessor Pence.
“[Pence] would have a narrow agenda or no agenda at all and when legislation passed he would speak out,” Bergower told the newspaper. “I don’t think [Holcomb] is interested in fighting a gambling issue right now. It would be a case of not only why not Terre Haute but why not all the other places that don’t have casinos.”
However, he reportedly expressed his opinion that Ford is the right person to sponsor the Terre Haute casino legislation due to the fact that the Republicans hold a 71% super-majority in the Indiana State Senate and an even larger 80% margin in the Indiana House Of Representatives.
“But it’s not a slam dunk,” Bergower told the Tribune-Star. “Ford will need to do some internal lobbying. There is a role to play in not just writing the legislation but also in shepherding it through the chambers.”