Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law Wednesday legislation that makes seismic shifts in Indiana’s gaming industry.
The bill opens the door to Indiana’s first new casinos in a decade. One would be in Gary. Spectacle Entertainment, which owns the existing Gary facility, would pay a $20 million fee to move to a more desirable location in the city.
If that happens, it also clears a path for a new casino in Terre Haute. Vigo County residents must then give their OK via a ballot referendum either this November or next May. And the Indiana Gaming Commission would then consider ownership bids for that gaming establishment.
The measure also potentially allows gambling in every Indiana community – that’s by legalizing sports wagering, including online and mobile.
And it moves up the date when the state's two racetrack casinos can add live dealers to their table games. Previous law set that at 2021 – the new measure moves it up to January 2020.
In a statement, Governor Holcomb said: “By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers.”
Holcomb cites increased competition from other states as a need for the bill. And he says the measure will bring in new revenue and create jobs.
The bulk of the bill becomes effective July 1. Casinos can begin offering sports bets Sept. 1.
The legislation faced a tenuous road late in session over so-called "hold harmless" language in the bill. Those are provisions that help ensure other communities with casinos that could be negatively affected by the bill's changes are financially compensated. East Chicago, Hammond and Michigan City will get that compensation if their share of local revenues decline with the opening of the new Gary casino. And both French Lick and Evansville will get compensation if the Terre Haute facility opens.
But casinos in southeastern Indiana are left out of the hold harmless provisions, to much outcry from lawmakers who represent the area. Those casinos say they'll be negatively affected by the live dealers at the racetrack casinos.