Indiana lawmakers to study effects of casino competition

2014-05-14T17:30:00Z 2014-05-14T20:29:06Z Indiana lawmakers to study effects of casino competitionDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | State lawmakers this summer will study the ongoing and potential impacts of increased competition for Indiana's gaming industry, including the effects of a potential Chicago casino on riverboats in Hammond, East Chicago, Gary and Michigan City.

The review by the Interim Study Committee on Public Policy will be the first since 2009, when a similar panel urged the Legislature to authorize land-based gaming and proposed other changes to keep Indiana's casinos popular. They face competition with slot machines going into Illinois bars and restaurants and new gambling options in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.

However, aside from some minor tax changes, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has done little since then to preserve Indiana gaming and its more than 10,000 Hoosier jobs.

That indifference is starting to hit the state's bottom line. Over the past year, state revenue from riverboat wagering taxes declined more than 20 percent versus 2013 and is down nearly $300 million a year compared to a decade ago.

The recent drop mostly is due to a new land-based Cincinnati casino that's crushed attendance and betting at the three nearby Indiana casinos on the Ohio River.

If Illinois lawmakers finally get on board with plans for a massive downtown Chicago casino and authorize an additional casino in the south suburbs, Northwest Indiana residents and communities, which get a slice of riverboat revenue, would be hit hard — along with the state of Indiana.

The chairman and members of the gaming study committee will be selected by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate in the next few weeks.

State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, is likely to be a member. So will state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who has had a hand in Indiana gaming legislation since the 1980s.

The panel is set to meet at least three times over the summer and fall prior to issuing a final report with recommendations for legislative action during the 2015 session that starts in January.

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