Indiana Senate chambers
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - A casino gaming bill that could have a big impact on local communities is going through some changes before it is voted on in the Indiana Senate.
Senate Bill 528 would allow Indiana’s two horse racing tracks to become full-blown casinos with table games, change the taxing method for all 13 casinos, and allow some gaming structures to be built on land next to riverboats. As a package, lawmakers say the bill will help keep Indiana’s casinos competitive with expanded casino gaming in Ohio and other neighboring states.
When the bill left a Senate committee last week, it threatened to strip casino communities like Lawrenceburg, Rising Sun, and others of $40 million in annual revenue from the casino admissions tax. The admission tax distribution to riverboat communities was capped in 2002, when state lawmakers agreed that those cities and counties wouldn’t in the future receive less revenue than they got in 2002.
During a Senate floor discussion Thursday, senators amended the bill to spread that loss to all counties, The Indianapolis Star reports.
Riverboat communities will lose about $13 million of the $40 million generated by the admissions tax. Non-riverboat counties will see a collective 6.4 million less out of the $33 million in riverboat revenue they’ve been sharing. Prior to the amendment, casino communities would have lost every cent of the $40 million.
State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) is adamant that riverboat communities share in the sacrifice.
“The riverboat county folks are still upset that they’re losing anything,” Kenley said. “But I said you’re going to have to contribute somehow to this deal.”
The legislation would make other changes, including swapping out the state admissions tax for a higher rate on the wagering tax placed on casinos. The tax rate on some of the state’s least-profitable casinos would be lowered. It would establish $40 million in annual tax credits for casinos who invest in improvements or expand.
SB 528, which was also amended to take effect upon passage instead of the traditional July 1 date, is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate next week, perhaps as soon as Monday.
State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), whose district includes Lawrenceburg and Hollywood Casino, won't get a chance to vote on the bill unless it reaches the House floor, but he's keeping an eye on it.
“This gaming bill by itself, the notion of it, I think, is a very good idea. Some of the ideas in it right now aren’t good, but the concept that we’re going to reexamine how our gaming system works knowing that competition is coming online is good because we have to be proactive to maintain our market share,” McMillin told Eagle 99.3 Monday.