Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg executives say the riverboat is not a fan of Senate Bill 528.
The legislation is being sold by supporters as a package of gaming industry revisions to help Indiana’s 13 casinos compete the best they can with casinos in neighboring states. Several new casinos have opened in the past year in Illinois and Ohio, including the new Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cincinnati which just opened to the public Monday evening. SB 528 would change the way casinos are taxed, allow some gaming facilities to be built on land next to riverboats, and would eliminate $27 million in state payments dating back to 2002 that prevents communities from seeing reductions in casino revenues.
However, Hollywood Casino Director of Operations Ahmed Ahmed said the bill could do casinos more harm than good.
“There is not a single provision in it, as it stands right now, that appeals to us,” Ahmed told Lawrenceburg City Council Monday.
Currently, Indiana casinos must pay taxes on all free play vouchers offered as a way to draw gamblers in. The bill originally removed the taxes on free play, but was amended in the Senate to only deduct taxes on $2 million a year in free play. Conversely, Ohio casinos don’t pay any tax on their free play vouchers.
“It’s a cap that would allow much smaller casino properties to benefit slightly, but not greatly,” Ahmed said. “The cap would force us to make a reduction in marketing efforts that we would otherwise undertake.”
Ahmed said SB 528 would also result in Hollywood paying higher admission taxes that what they pay today. He added that the casino is adamantly opposed to the part of the bill that would allow more land-based gaming facilities, which would diminish Hollywood’s investment in its new riverboat and give the state’s two “racinos” at horse racing tracks a larger advantage.
The bill would wipe out the admissions tax that casinos pay, saving the boats the trouble of having to count every person who steps on board. Many casinos originally supported the change when the loss in tax revenue would be supplemented by a new 2.5 percent wagering tax, but that rate has been amended upwards to 3.45 percent, causing casinos to rethink the swap.
“(SB 528) would not only hurt Hollywood Casino, not only the community here, but also other large casinos that produce significant revenues for the state of Indiana,” the casino executive said.
Senate Bill 528 has already passed the Senate, earning 32-18 support among senators on February 25. It now lies with the House Public Policy Committee. State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) told council that the bill is likely to see many changes before it can pass the House.
“Our only chance is to do something in the House,” Ahmed said.
And something may get done that makes SB 528 opponents happy. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has been on record saying he does not support an expansion of gaming, and doesn’t anticipate the bill in its current form gaining passage.
Mayor Dennis Carr said he and other city leaders have been on the phone with state lawmakers across Indiana urging them to oppose it.
“Just like every business in your community, small or big, our fortune is yours, and yours is ours,” Ahmed told council, thanking the city for its partnership.