The Herald Bulletin

March 20, 2013

Editorial: House gaming bill is shortsighted

— It looks like Gov. Mike Pence is going to get his wish about gambling. The Indiana House Public Policy Committee rejected items from Senate Bill 528 that allowed for riverboats to move inland and live dealer gambling at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs.

Despite a spirited dissent from Anderson Rep. Terri Austin, the House committee rejected expanding gambling. As Austin and others pointed out, though, having dealers is not an expansion. The number of gaming tables stays the same and 800 jobs are added. But the Republican-led House, possibly taking its cue from Pence, said no.

Another part of Senate Bill 528 would’ve cut drastically the amount of tax money returned to local communities. Senators wanted that money to go straight to the state. The House committee removed this part of the bill, setting the stage for more rounds of talks.

“This bill is not dead yet,” said Austin.

She and others will continue to try and bring live dealer gambling to the two racinos, but with Pence weighing in and House members being opposed, the bill has a tough uphill battle to say the least.

It seems like the senators were giving a nod of concern to the state’s fiscal health by taking more gambling revenues and giving them to the state instead of local communities. Although even many Republicans are at odds with the governor over his proposed 10 percent state tax, perhaps the senators thought the additional gaming revenue could give Pence his tax cut.

Whatever the reason, state lawmakers can see where the lack of revenue can lead.

Which makes the House committee’s denial of live gamblers at odds with common sense. The two racinos are soon going to be up against fierce competition from Ohio in the form of a Dayton casino, which, like Cincinnati, will have dealer gambling. The state stands to lose a lot of revenue and, in turn, so do local communities as fewer gamblers show up.

Indiana gave birth to its gambling in the late 1980s and has been riding the gravy train ever since. For that train to keep on producing, lawmakers have to change with the times and meet the competition head-on. If not, the racinos end up being only an imitation of what they could have been.