Indiana lawmakers are up to their elbows in surgery on casino taxes. They must remember as they do so that the reason for allowing casinos in Indiana in the first place was to benefit the host communities.
Those host communities need the economic boost those casinos offer — not just additional jobs, but also the tax revenue those communities and other local entities receive.
That revenue is in serious jeopardy under Senate Bill 528, authored by state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville. The bill would eliminate the admissions tax and create a supplemental wagering tax instead.
The legislation encourages Indiana's gambling industry to invest more money in their facilities, offering them significant tax breaks.
Among the twists and turns in this legislation is the elimination of a revenue guarantee mechanism that provided local governments revenue based on the 2002 attendance figures. Except for Horseshoe in Hammond, every riverboat casino has seen attendance drop since then.
As the legislation stands, according to the Legislative Services Agency's latest fiscal impact statement, local losses over the next two years include:
Gary, $2.78 million.
East Chicago, $1.85 million.
Michigan City, $1.58 million.
Lake County, $4.63 million.
South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, $410,000.
Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Training Center, $50,000.
LaPorte County, $1.58 million.
LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, $160,000.
This is money those local governments have been counting on but stand to lose if this legislation goes through.
Indiana lawmakers should not eliminate the casino admissions tax at the expense of local governments.
Remember that the rationale for allowing casinos was to help troubled communities, not to fatten the state's coffers. That's why casinos are located in specific communities.
There are other ways to help the casino industry than to eliminate this tax, and certainly not by making the host cities suffer.