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Governor still deciding where to place his chips on transformative casino legislation
2019 Indiana General Assembly

Governor still deciding where to place his chips on transformative casino legislation

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb isn't yet showing his cards on whether he plans to sign into law a gaming measure that's poised to usher in perhaps the biggest changes to the state's casino industry since riverboat gambling first was legalized in 1993.

The Republican chief executive told reporters Monday in his Statehouse office that he's still reviewing the provisions of House Enrolled Act 1015 that last week was approved 59-36 by the Republican-controlled House, and 37-12 by the Republican-controlled Senate.

"I want to learn more on the gaming bill," Holcomb said. "This all happened quickly at the end of session, as happens when you're making sausage in this building and there's an expire date on it."

Holcomb said nothing in particular raises a red flag for him relating to the gaming measure. Nor did he say that he's inclined to veto the legislation.

Indeed, over three legislative sessions, Holcomb only has vetoed a single proposal: a 2017 measure that would have imposed a search fee for public records requests in violation of Holcomb's "Five Pillars" commitment to government transparency.

Concerning the gaming measure, the governor insisted that with such high stakes for Indiana, gaming operators, casino communities and, frankly, all Hoosiers, he wants to be sure that he fully understands exactly what is on the table.

"My first and last thought is the impact it has on taxpayers and on our citizens, both short-term and long-term," Holcomb said. 

"I want to make sure the state of Indiana is the winner, and for me to be sure of that I have to read the bill word-for-word and I'm not there yet."

The gaming legislation authorizes the relocation of Gary's Majestic Star casinos to a land-based site, likely adjacent to the Borman Expressway, and legalizes sports wagering, including on mobile devices.

Spectacle Entertainment, the Majestic Star owner, is required to pay a $20 million fee to the Indiana Gaming Commission as a condition of moving and consolidating its two casino boats into a single inland facility.

The company also must give up the second Gary gaming license as a condition of moving, and is subject to a second $20 million fee if it sells the new Gary casino to another operator within five years of receiving state regulatory approval to relocate.

Under the plan, the new Gary casino can have up to 2,764 gambling games to match the maximum combined gaming positions offered at the two Majestic Star boats, instead of limiting the inland casino to the gaming capacity of a single boat.

It also "holds-harmless" Region casino communities if their gaming tax revenue is negatively impacted by the Gary casino move, opens the door for a new Terre Haute casino and reduces wagering tax rates for all casinos.


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