INDIANAPOLIS | Northwest Indiana counties and communities at risk of losing a significant chunk of their gaming tax revenue can breathe a sigh of relief -- for now.
The House Public Policy Committee voted 13-0 Wednesday to remove a provision from Senate Bill 528 that would have redirected some local gaming taxes back to the casinos to help support the redevelopment of casino properties. The legislation was drafted in light of new and expected competition from casinos in neighboring states.
"This restores the local revenues as they were before," said state Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, the committee chairman.
Prior to the change, Gary stood to lose about $3 million in gaming tax revenue during the next two years, Lake County $2.9 million, LaPorte County $1.4 million, Michigan City $1.3 million and East Chicago $1.25 million.
Counties without casinos, including Porter County, also would have lost a portion of the gaming tax revenue they share.
The committee also removed provisions that would have permitted riverboat casinos to relocate on land adjacent to their docks, live table games at the two central Indiana horse-track casinos and mobile wagering on horse races at the tracks.
Several Republican representatives echoed House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Republican Gov. Mike Pence in saying they believe those measures represent an expansion of gaming, which they oppose.
The committee retained Senate-approved provisions awarding up to $40 million in annual state tax credits to casinos that upgrade their properties and exempting from tax up to $2 million in casino free play coupons, which could be sent to Indiana or out-of-state players.
The revised legislation is likely to go to the Ways and Means Committee for further amendments prior to getting a final vote by the House.
If approved by the full chamber, the measure is all but certain to go to a House-Senate conference committee.
Conference committee rules allow any provision that has passed one chamber, such as the local tax revenue changes, to be eligible for inclusion in the compromise legislation that must be re-approved by both chambers to go to the governor.