INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence has refined his stance on a gambling bill moving through the Indiana General Assembly – now saying he has concerns that it would expand gambling in the state.
Were making it known to legislators that while I have no objection to finding ways to permit these Indiana businesses to be more competitive financially, I do not support an expansion of gaming, he said.
Pence elaborated that he thinks authorizing live table games at the racinos – rather than electronic versions – as well as allowing existing riverboat casinos to move inland on the current property footprint, would be expansions.
I have concerns about that, he said.
Earlier, Pence said he supported the status quo and didnt discuss specific provisions in the bill.
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, is pushing to make Indianas casino industry more competitive now that Ohio has four casinos operating, along with additional competition from Michigan and Illinois.
The state is expected to lose tens of millions of dollars in taxes from casino revenue if no changes occur.
Senate Bill 528 would relieve up to $235 million in state taxes from casinos and reorganize the taxing structure by replacing the admission tax of $3 with a supplemental wagering tax.
The legislation also contains the table game provision and lets casinos move inland to adjacent property. It would not allow a casino to move entire locations to somewhere else in the county.
Boots reacted Tuesday by saying he doesnt understand how people can call the proposed changes an expansion, noting there are no additional games or locations for gambling under the bill. Table games are already (at the racinos), he said, noting the bill actually creates jobs for live dealers.
Boots did concede that the changes would bring revenue to the bottom line of the casinos since some gamblers prefer the interaction with the dealer. He also said most casinos along Indianas borders have already invested heavily in their riverboats and wouldnt move inland for the foreseeable future. But a few might be more interested in that option.
I think we need to get real and move onto land at some point, Boots said.
Historically, when the riverboats were established, they cruised up and down the waterways. But slowly, legislators have chipped away at those requirements and now they are nothing more than permanently moored barges. And Indiana has two land-based casinos at the states two horse tracks.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has said previously the bill is meant to stanch the loss of revenue and was crafted carefully not to expand gambling.