The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Opinion

December 15, 2013

Editorial: Live dealers at tables would be a boon for Hoosier Park

Wagering at the casinos dropped from $2.8 billion in 2009 to $2.56 billion last year.

That means the payment of wagering taxes to the state has also dropped. Taxes paid to the state were down 15 percent last year.

When casinos were newer to the state — in 2000 — the industry hired 16,000 workers. Now the number is down about 12,000.

Although Indiana didn’t place all its bets on the future of gambling in the state, the industry has provided critical funding to state coffers.

Recognizing the loss in taxes, legislators last year tried to come up with measures to get money rolling back in. Indiana lawmakers considered letting the racetrack-based casinos, such as Hoosier Park in Anderson, have live dealers for table games. There was also consideration of allowing casinos a tax break on marketing and letting riverboat casinos move inland.

Only the tax breaks were approved.

Many of the measures were aimed at battling the growth of gambling in other nearby states. And table game players in Indiana typically go to the riverboats.

Some attempts to revive the live gaming element will likely be introduced when the General Assembly begins Jan. 6. But in a short, two-and-a-half month session, there will be no activity to deal with them, many legislative experts say.

That’s understandable. Hoosiers expect legislators to focus on more pressing economic and budgetary matters.

But live gaming could add a net of about 600 jobs to the state workforce. And when more players come into the casinos — as is expected with live gaming — state taxes could again grow from the industry, which is usually the third- or fourth-largest source of income to the state.

Live dealers at the tables could be a game changer for Hoosier Park.

But some riverboats don’t want casinos to have an edge; riverboats fear they’ll lose jobs to the casinos, too. So it’s understandable that the hot topic of live gaming wouldn’t fit into a short legislative session. Hoosiers, however, should expect the issue — live dealers at gaming tables — be approved in 2015.

In summary Live dealers at gaming tables would be a game changer for Hoosier Park but it's understandable that nothing will happen at the legislature this year.

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