INDIANAPOLIS | The leader of the Indiana Senate threw cold water Thursday on the idea that the unanimous committee vote for a proposal changing taxes and other rules affecting the state's casino industry guarantees the full Senate will approve the legislation.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told reporters passage of Senate Bill 528 is far from a done deal, and he expects the Appropriations Committee will give the measure "a lot more scrutiny on the fiscal impact to the state."
The legislation eliminates taxes on casino admissions and free play coupons, permits the central Indiana racinos to use live dealers at table games and allows riverboat casinos to move inland on property adjacent to their current docks.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates the tax changes would cost the state between $149 million and $231 million over the next two years, though casino operators told the Public Policy Committee on Wednesday that they'd reinvest the savings in their properties.
Long said new out-of-state competition requires Indiana take steps to preserve its casino industry and the more than $1 billion a year it pays in gaming taxes to the state.
But he said lawmakers are trying to tread carefully so as to not advantage one casino over another.
Long repeated his call that casinos and communities, particularly in Lake County, work together to come up with a gaming plan that every stakeholder can be satisfied with.
"One of the big problems we have as legislators on this issue is that everyone is just hammering on each other," Long said.
For example, Gary's efforts over several years to win legislative permission to relocate the Majestic Star casinos from Lake Michigan to an inland site adjacent to the Borman Expressway have been repeatedly thwarted by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who said he's just looking out for his city and its largest employer.