The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Politics

April 13, 2013

Legislators are all-in

Support urged for live casino dealers

ANDERSON, Ind. — State lawmakers spoke at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino Friday in support of allowing the state’s two racinos to use live dealers for their table games.

Anderson’s Hoosier Park and Shelbyville’s Indiana Grand, both owned by Centaur, now use computerized dealers for games such as blackjack, craps, roulette and poker as required by state law.

The lawmakers — including Rep. Jack Lutz (R-Anderson), Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) and Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson) — gathered in front of cardboard cutouts, set up on Hoosier Park’s front lawn to represent the roughly 600 jobs that could be added between the two racinos if they were allowed to hire live dealers. Those jobs would pay roughly $40,000 a year, plus tips and benefits.

Also at Hoosier Park on Friday were Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) and Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville).

“By allowing live table games at racinos, Indiana would give these employers the green light to hire more people. To me, this is a common sense move to create high-paying jobs in the racino communities,” Leising said.

The live dealers were originally included in Senate Bill 528, but that provision was eliminated last month when the bill went before the Indiana House public policy committee.

“That happens, bills get changed,” Lanane said Friday, “That’s the legislative process.”

But he and other attending legislators think that portion needs to be changed back. The measure is up for final approval in the Indiana House on Monday, but will likely go to a House-Senate conference committee for further discussion before the end of the General Assembly session on April 29.

Many of those who opposed the live dealer portion of the bill argued it was an expansion of gambling in Indiana. Austin disagrees.

“It’s not an expansion,” she said. “It’s a way to preserve what we already have.”

Gambling is Indiana’s third-leading source of revenue, the legislators said, responsible for more than $10 billion in gaming taxes since the state legalized casino gambling in the mid-1990s,

But that revenue has taken a hit, as neighboring states are using live-dealers.

“Gaming ... is under attack from all bordering states. Illinois, Michigan and Ohio all have games, and Kentucky is joining the club soon,” Eberhart said.

Austin said live dealers could help Indiana stay competitive.

“Think about it,” she said. “Instead of a machine, visitors to racinos will deal with a real person. Guests have said they prefer to play games with real cards, real chips and real dice.”

Other benefits, they said, would include the creation of up to 350 construction jobs, and up to $20 million in new state tax revenue, $20 million in capital investments, and more than $40 million in additional economic benefits, “and it won’t cost Hoosier taxpayers a dime,” Lutz said.

CNHI Statehouse Bureau correspondent Maureen Hayden contributed to this story.

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

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