Major Gaming Bill Advances To Full Senate With More Changes

Feb 21, 2019

A Senate committee Thursday tightened the reins a little on major changes to the state’s gaming industry.

The big gaming bill originally moved an unused gaming license from Gary to Terre Haute, allowing a new casino to open there. A change last week would have allowed the license to move anywhere in the state – unsettling many gaming officials.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has now undone that change. Terre Haute would be the only city that could get the license, contingent on its citizens voting to approve that – something Mayor Duke Bennett supports.

“Where this ends up at, I don’t know yet," Bennett says. "But I’m still going to continue to support having a referendum.”

The committee also made another change. Originally, any casino operator in the state could bid to open the Terre Haute casino. The bill now limits that to just a single company – Spectacle Entertainment, which has an agreement to own the existing Gary casino and the unused license. Bill author Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) doesn’t like that change but says there’s still time to reopen a competitive bidding process.

“I’m working with the [gaming] commission, I’m working with the gaming industry folks to come up with an appraisal process for that current location and then the mechanisms for the transfer of that license to take place,” Messmer says.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.