Indiana Senate Allows Land-based Casinos, No Tables for Racinos

The Indiana Senate voted to let riverboat casinos move onto land, but rejected allowing live dealers at the state's two racinos, which Governor Mike Pence (l.) considered an expansion of gambling. Bill author state Rep. Tom Dermody said lawmakers "need a little more time" to prepare the measure for Pence to sign—or not.

In a 36-13 vote, the Indiana Senate approved a measure allowing the state’s riverboat casinos to move onto land. But live dealers at table games at the Shelbyville and Anderson horse racetracks will not be allowed for at least five years. Governor Mike Pence had opposed that provision, considering it an expansion of gambling. Earlier the House had passed a bill allowing live dealers immediately. The House version also created a new tax credit for casino property investment; the Senate version removed the tax credit.

The bill will move to a joint House-Senate conference committee to come up with compromise legislation to present to Pence. Both chambers must pass the measure before midnight April 29.

The author of the bill, state Rep. Tom Dermody, said, “I certainly felt good how it came out of the House. I look forward to compromise discussion.” He said lawmakers “need a little more time” to work on the legislation.

State Senator Tim Lanane said live dealers simply would be a “substitution” for the electronic dealers now in use at the racinos. The proposal would “replace that computer chip with real live people. Hundreds of jobs would be created that way,” Lanane said, adding waiting five years to add those jobs would be risky.

State Senator Luke Kenley said those who oppose gambling must recognize that it already is an established industry that employs thousands of Indiana residents and attracts about one-third of them. He said the revised bill is an attempt to balance the needs of the entire Indiana gambling industry, including nine riverboat casinos, two racinos and one traditional casino in rural Orange County.

The Senate’s bill also would establish a special committee to study the state’s tax system, make the free-games promotional tax break permanent and provide additional funding to help the owners of the historic French Lick Spring Resort & Casino. However, it eliminates a House-approved tax break for construction at casino sites.

House and Senate negotiators have until April 29 to agree on a final version of the bill.

Supporters said Indiana casinos have been steadily losing business to increasing competition in surrounding states, including new casinos in Ohio and video gambling in Illinois.