INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson will have to wait until 2021 before seeing live dealers.
"I'm afraid that's going to be the case," state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Wednesday. "We asked for three years instead of five, and they said no."
Lanane said the reasoning for the delay at Hoosier Park and the state's other racino, Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville, was to give time for casinos in French Lick and southeast Indiana to prepare for the increase in competition.
Lanane said the governor's office had also made it clear Gov. Mike Pence would veto any bill that included live dealers at the racinos.
The legislation still allows the existing riverboat casinos to move on land and take their live table games with them, which Lanane said makes no sense. He said he doesn't understand why Pence would have a problem with live dealers at racinos but not at regular casinos.
"There's no difference," Lanane said.
For now, Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand will have to be content to wait five years. Although the two racinos won't get dealers, they do get a consolation prize of an extension of free play tax credits, which applies to all of Indiana's casinos, and a reduction in the racino wagering tax, which means they won't have to pay the state as much.
But it's not quite the boost they, or Lanane, were hoping for.
"It would have been nice, especially since I believe it would have created more jobs for the area," Lanane said. "Five years seems like a long time to wait."
The debate over how to help the struggling casino industry in Indiana came down to the final day of the Indiana General Assembly, which ended Wednesday night. House Bill 1540 originated in the House and included live dealers at the racinos starting this year. That changed when it went to the Senate after representatives from Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun and French Lick Casino said they would lose customers if Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand got live dealers.
Lanane and Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, served on a conference committee trying to come up with a solution, but nothing was decided until Tuesday evening, when Pence's position on live dealers was announced. Lanane said his fear was a veto from the governor might kill the bill completely, which he said nobody wanted.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.