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Bill would ease casino restrictions in Indiana

A new bill passed by state Senate allows Park City Waukegan or North Chicago receive gaming owner’s licences. Park City

A new bill passed by the state Senate allows Park City, Waukegan or North Chicago to receive gaming owner’s licences. Park City had been the designated recipient. | File Photo

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:50PM



INDIANAPOLIS — Efforts to loosen gambling regulations are gaining traction in the General Assembly as the state gears up for more competition from neighboring states.

Senators listened to advocates for the bill authored by Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, that would allow more options for casinos, including allowing floating casinos to move inland next to their docking locations.

The Legislative Services Agency estimates that the bill could cut into the state general fund by $149 million to $231 million over two years.

The gamble is to try to reduce burdens of taxes and regulations on casinos and make a more attractive experience for customers coming to Indiana. Gambling revenue has been dropping in Indiana in recent years, with wagering taxes dropping by 4.23 percent in 2012 and by 0.45 percent in 2011.

If passed, the bill would also replace a $3 tax for each person who walks into a casino or racetrack with a 2.5 percent supplemental wagering tax.

The bill would also allow the Indiana Gaming Commission and the Indiana Horse Racing Commission authority to waive some statutory requirements on the gambling facilities, exempt free-play promotions from being taxed by the state, and expand gambling at race tracks to include table games.

It would also remove a requirement that any workman’s compensation be reimbursed to the state of Indiana.

During a Policy Committee hearing Wednesday, Ryan Soultz of Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City warned that more competition is near, since Chicago is aggressively pursuing a casino within the city, and more casinos are opening in Ohio and southwest Michigan.

“The mayor of Chicago would very desperately like a casino in Chicago,” Soultz said.

A less popular provision would allow limited mobile gaming devices, similar to games on a tablet computer, at off-track betting facilities. Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said that could open up gambling to anywhere a device could go. He said he hoped to see that removed from the bill.

The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville.



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