Bill to help Indiana casinos faces uncertain House future despite new competition from Ohio

Speaker says no bill will expand gambling

INDIANAPOLIS - A huge new casino will open just across the state line in Cincinnati Monday night, and the Indiana gaming industry has been dreading the potentially dire consequences for Indiana's gambling facilities.

Meanwhile, a bill aimed at helping the Indiana casinos still faces an uncertain future.

Indiana's casino revenues have already been dropping for several years due to the economy and increased out-of-state competition, but the new Cincinnati casino could cause that revenue to plunge even further.

Industry experts say the new $400 million Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati will hurt most of Indiana's gaming facilities and could severely damage the three riverboats nearby in Lawrenceburg, Rising Sun and Vevay.

The Indiana Senate has responded by passing a bill aimed at making Indiana casinos more competitive by, among other things, allowing them to move onto dry land and by giving them tax breaks on free-play coupons they give to customers.

Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, whose Public Policy Committee will hear the bill in the House, seems inclined to do something to help, but isn't sure yet just what.

He concedes that the competition for gambling dollars is ratcheting up.

"It will be competitive. It will certainly be more competitive that it has been in the past," Davis said. "So we need to address those issues the best that we can. But I don't believe that that's going to include a huge expansion of gaming."

Speaker Brian Bosma said he believes allowing casinos to be land-based would represent a major expansion.

"That's not been our general consensus here, at least on the Republican side," Bosma said. "And we understand we have to keep the industry competitive with so much competition in our surrounding states. But I don't foresee a massive expansion of gaming this session."

But Democrat Terri Austin of Anderson, where Hoosier Park has paid more than $600 million in state taxes, isn't buying that.

"If you have a bus or a car on the road, it's still a vehicle, and I don't know that I would say that moving that onto land... I respect his opinion on that, but I don't agree with him on that front," Austin said.

Davis' committee heard, but did not vote on the Sunday alcohol sales bill, but there will almost certainly be a vote on this bill.

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