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As Some Casinos Object, Gambling Legislation Leaves Committee

John Wardell

Legislation aimed at helping Indiana’s gaming industry stem a sharp decline in revenues passed its first test in the General Assembly when a House committee approved the bill Thursday.

Rep. Tom Dermody’s (R-LaPorte) bill allows Indiana’s riverboats to move inland onto their existing footprint.  And the state’s two racetrack casinos can add table games with live dealers. 

The live table games are capped at half of the number of existing electronic table games.  And for every live table game the racinos add, they must eliminate one of the electronic ones. 

Centaur Gaming runs both Indiana racinos.  Company President Jim Brown says live table games are a more competitive product than their electronic counterparts.

“Live table games would also result in numerous economic benefits to the state of Indiana and our host communities including jobs, tax revenues and result in additional capital investment,” Brown says.

But Rising Star Casino in southeastern Indiana, which is run by Full House Resorts, says it doesn’t have the money to move on land.  Full House Resorts CEO Dan Lee recently took over the company.  He says he’s trying to figure out ways to boost his facility through other means -- and allowing racinos to add live dealers could cripple those plans.

“How do we bring in celebrity restaurateurs and fix up things and everything, and then out of left field I heard, ‘Oh, you might get stabbed in the back - they’re going to let tables into the racinos.’  And I thought, ‘Well Jesus, do we throw good money after bad,’” Lee says.

The bill also includes several tax breaks and incentives, which Lee says he does support. 

The legislation also includes several tax incentives for the gaming industry.  The bill now heads to the House Ways and Means committee, where lawmakers will more closely scrutinize the measure’s fiscal implications. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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