AP News

Ind. panel dilutes casino bill, restores funding


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A panel of Indiana House lawmakers stripped most provisions of a gambling bill Wednesday, setting up a potential showdown with senators who approved a gambling expansion last month.

Indiana's casinos are pressing to bring their riverboat operations on shore and the owner of Indiana's two racetracks with slots wants approval to install table games as new casinos in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio look ready to siphon away business.

But the House Public Policy Committee voted 10-3 to advance a bill that does away with both provisions and restores state aid for counties that host casinos, which the Senate cut in the gambling bill.

Jim Brown, chief operating officer for the Centaur Holdings, which owns both the Shelbyville and Anderson tracks, argued that adding table games would amount to a formality because both tracks already have games like poker and roulette operated by machines.

But Republican Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said table games never were what the Legislature intended when it approved slots for the racetracks.

"Why did you not install table games when you first put the casino in?" Davis pressed.

The House gambling bill keeps in place a handful of small tax changes sought by the gambling industry, but the largest items were eliminated.

The gambling industry has spent more than $19 million lobbying for gambling expansions and lower taxes with mixed success since 2000. In that time, riverboats won approval to dock permanently, the tracks won approval of 4,000 slots and the owners of the French Lick Resort and Casino won an exception to the state's water-based casino rule in order to build their casino.


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