The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

February 14, 2013

Bill to allow live table gaming passes Appropriations Committee

Legislation would bring live-dealer table games to Hoosier Park

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would allow casinos to install live-dealer table games has won another hand in the Indiana General Assembly.

One section of the bill — Senate Bill 528 — would allow Anderson’s Hoosier Park Racing & Cassino and Shelbyville’s Indiana Grand to add live-dealer table games such as roulette, blackjack, craps and poker, alongside their slot machines.

Thursday morning, the bill passed on a 8-4 vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the final stage before it comes to a full-vote on the Senate floor.

If the bill becomes law, a big winner could be Indianapolis-based Centaur Holdings LLC, which owns Hoosier Park. Representatives say it will own Indiana Grand and Indiana Downs within the next two weeks. If that purchase goes through, Centaur would own both the state’s racinos.

A Delaware bankruptcy judge gave Centaur the go-ahead to buy Indiana Grand and Downs last year, and the sale has cleared state hurdles such as the Indiana Horse Racing and Gaming commissions and a mandatory anti-trust waiting period.

Jim Brown, Centaur and Hoosier Park’s president and chief operating officer, backed the bill in his testimony to the committee Thursday.

As it stands, he said, Centaur’s casino floors have live dealers dealing digital cards and digital dealers dealing live cards, as required by law.

“It doesn’t make sense. We need to connect the dots,” he said.

In January, when the bill went before the State Senate Public Policy Committee and passed unanimously, Brown said the addition of live dealers could generate about 650 new jobs between Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand.

State Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, who co-authored the bill and serves on the committee, said then that, “these are more than minimum-wage jobs. Plus, dealers usually get tips from winners.”

Brown told the committee the average full-time dealer, between wages and tips, makes about $40,000 per year, plus about $15,000 worth of benefits.

“Consider how important this (the bill) is to Indiana,” he said Thursday. “Allow us to do this, allow us to create jobs in Indiana.”

Brown also said the bill could also help Indiana casinos compete against new operations in Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, in addition to increasing state tax revenue coming from the casinos and maximizing their economic impact.

Among other things, the bill would remove taxes on free-play gaming coupons, which most states — including Ohio — already do.

That could be pricey for the state, since it would mean about $204 million in lost potential revenue, according to numbers from the Legislative Service Agency.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.

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