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Senate committee OKs casino tax changes; bill includes land provision

Majestic Star Casinos BuffingtHarbor Gary. | File Photo~Sun-Times Medi         ptmet

Majestic Star Casinos at Buffington Harbor in Gary. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:12PM



INDIANAPOLIS — Legislation designed to lift tax burdens on the state’s casinos moved through the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. The bill also would allow boat casinos to move to land they currently own.

A representative with the Majestic Star in Gary said the casino does own land adjacent to its casino.

Senate Bill 528 would relieve up to $235 million in state taxes from casinos and reorganize taxing structures like replacing the admission tax of $3 with a 2.5 percent supplemental wagering tax, and allow up to $2 million tax break on out-of-state free play promotions.

The bill also strengthens the ability of the Indiana Gaming Commission and Indiana Horse Racing Commission to waive statutory requirements, and expand gambling at race tracks.

The bill passed out of the committee with an 8-4 vote.

During public testimony, Jeri Elliot, an employee of Majestic Star, asked that any funds casinos receive because of the legislation be invested in communities instead of taken out of the state. “We want the money to be reinvested in our communities,” Elliot said, “to bring back good jobs.”

State Sen. Luke Kenley, who chairs the committee, said there are provisions to encourage investment by casinos in the state.

“One of the things that we have in there is that it requires an investment in Indiana,” Kenley said.

The free play provisions in the bill may not be enough, State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said. Since it’s restricted to out-of-state promotions, casinos may end up trading customers with states like Michigan and Ohio.

“We’re just going to lose our own state customers by limiting their free-play to out-of-state customers,” Tallian said.

State Sen. Earline Rogers also supported the bill, but was concerned about removing a guarantee of local funding for boat casino communities of $40 million if the boats fall behind in revenue. She pointed to $520 million that riverboats provide to the state in tax revenue and suggested using a sliding scale to ensure communities still receive casino revenues to work with.

“This was originally a community-driven initiative,” Rogers said, “and the $40 million we’re losing doesn’t compare to the $520 million the state can gain.”



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