INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence will not sign legislation authorizing land-based gaming in Indiana, but neither will he block the changes state lawmakers believe are needed to help Hoosier casinos stand up to new competition in neighboring states.
The Republican announced Friday he will allow House Enrolled Act 1540 to become law Tuesday without his signature, an action permitted by the Indiana Constitution when the governor chooses not to sign or veto a measure passed by the General Assembly.
Pence said he recognizes the importance of gaming to the economies of many Indiana communities and the contributions of gaming tax revenue to the state budget, and believes the provisions of the measure are not an "expansion" of gaming, which he opposes.
"From early in the legislative process, I made it clear that I would not stand in the way of reforms that would allow these businesses to remain competitive with surrounding states so long as it did not constitute an expansion of gaming in Indiana," Pence said. "HEA 1540 ... meet(s) this standard and, as such, I will permit (it) to become law without signature."
The new law, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and state Sens. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, permits Indiana's 11 riverboat casinos, which never sail, to relocate on land adjacent to their docks.
Gary's Majestic Star already has announced plans for a new casino and event space next to its existing hotel.
The $95 million to $135 million, 36-month project is expected to support up to 1,400 construction jobs and open Buffington Harbor for future development.
Dermody said he is thrilled land-based gaming finally is going to be permitted in the region and across the state.
"I am thankful that Gov. Pence is allowing this piece of legislation to move forward," Dermody said. "It is my hope that Northwest Indiana will see meaningful economic development opportunities as a result of HEA 1540 becoming law."
Hoosier casinos have withered in recent years under an onslaught of new nearby gambling choices, including Illinois' more than 18,000 bar slot machines, and potentially a tribal casino in South Bend.
The new gaming law also establishes a state approval process, in addition to federal requirements, that the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians will have to complete prior to opening what is projected to be the largest casino in Indiana.