INDIANAPOLIS | The Senate on Monday bet millions of dollars belonging to Northwest Indiana counties and cities on the chance that reducing casino tax payments will lead to new casino property developments and improve competition with out-of-state gambling halls.
Senate Bill 528, which now goes to the House, restructures casino taxes to incentivize Indiana riverboats to reinvest in their properties.
The tax losses to pay for the program are roughly split between the state and local governments. Gary will see the largest loss among locals — more than $4 million over the next two years due to declining attendance at the Majestic Star casinos since 2002.
State Sens. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, who both voted against the measure, said it's unacceptable to seize money from cash-strapped local governments when the state is sitting on a $2 billion budget reserve.
"The damage is going to be felt by the people we represent and their respective cities and towns and these counties, and those are our No. 1 objective," Randolph said. "As opposed to the riverboats — they're making enough money."
Lake County, East Chicago, LaPorte County, Michigan City and nongaming Indiana counties also will see significant casino tax revenue declines under the plan.
The state will give up about $40 million.
State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the legislation is still a work in progress and almost certainly will be changed again by the House before a final vote.
In addition to the tax reforms, the proposal allows riverboats to relocate on land next to their current docks and permits live dealers at the two horse track casinos near Indianapolis.