Governor frowns on gaming legislation

2013-03-12T18:00:00Z 2013-03-13T11:59:03Z Governor frowns on gaming legislationBy Dan Carden, (317) 637-9078

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence declared Tuesday that a Senate-approved plan intended to make Indiana's casinos more competitive includes an expansion of gambling he does not support.

Senate Bill 528, which is awaiting action by the House Public Policy Committee, allows riverboats to relocate on land next to their current docks, permits live dealers to replace electronic table games at the two horse track casinos near Indianapolis and enables horse race bettors to place wagers using iPad-like mobile devices.

The Republican governor said he considers all of those changes to be an expansion of gambling -- which he opposes. He did not explicitly vow to veto a gaming measure containing those provisions.

"I have concerns about that," Pence said. "We're expressing those concerns to members of the state Legislature."

At the same time, Pence said he has "no objection" to the legislation's gaming tax changes that would cut up to $30 million in revenue from the budgets of Gary, East Chicago, Michigan City, and Lake and LaPorte counties, and nearly every other Indiana county whether home to a casino or not.

Under the plan, casinos would keep that money and gain access to $40 million in state funds to pay for property improvements intended to bolster competition with new casinos in Michigan and Ohio, and expected future casinos in Illinois and Kentucky.

"I'm not averse to the kind of fiscal and tax reforms that might make these institutions more competitive and more viable," Pence said. "I want to get this economy moving again; I want to make sure all of Indiana's businesses are more competitive."

Pence declined to explain, even when pressed by reporters, why he opposes gambling expansion.

He admitted he's never bought a lottery ticket.

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