State Senator Johnny Nugent (R-Lawrenceburg)
(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Indiana’s casino communities could take a large hit in their revenues under a bill that passed the state Senate Monday night.
State Senator Johnny Nugent (R-Lawrenceburg) spoke out against Senate Bill 528 before it passed 32-18 during a marathon Senate session that lasted into the late evening hours. The bill package would allow casinos to expand gaming facilities onto land next to their boats, permit the state’s two horse racing track casinos to bring in live table games, and
One provision of concern to casino communities would reduce by millions of dollars the admissions tax paid to casino counties and cities like Dearborn County and Lawrenceburg.
In 2002 following a law that allowed riverboat casinos to remain permanently docked, the state realized casino communities were receiving more in admissions taxes than expected. Lawmakers capped the admissions tax paid to those casino host cities and counties, and began sending the rest of the funds to counties that aren’t home to a casino.
Estimates show that the City of Rising Sun would lose $2.5 million a year from the admissions tax, Switzerland County up to $3 million, and Lawrenceburg as much as $12 million. The money that goes to non-casino counties would also take a hit. Casino communities would continue to receive money from other taxes and their local development agreements with casinos.
Nugent told his fellow Senators that SB 528 is a mix of “the good, the bad, and the very ugly.” He voted against the bill, citing his belief that that it reneges on the 2002 deal.
Other lawmakers opposing the tax change provision argued that local governments depend on the money to fund the infrastructure and services associated with being the home of a casino.
The tax revenue that stays with the state would go towards establishing a tax credit for casinos looking to become more competitive by making upgrades or expanding their facilities. The tax credit would total $40 million each year under the current bill.
The legislation now heads to the House where local state representatives Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) and Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) have vowed to fight the admissions tax change measure.
SB 528 is the second part of a potential double whammy for southeast Indiana’s riverboat casino communities. Expanded gaming in Ohio – which reaches its full capacity when the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati opens to the public March 4 – is forecasted to reduce revenues at riverboats in Rising Sun, Lawrenceburg, and Switzerland County by about one-third in the first full year.