Indiana Legislators Seriously Considering Sports Betting
Indiana’s gambling laws are under debate, and this could mean legal sports betting and two new casinos by early 2020. The new proposal made it through a Senate committee last week at a time when the state’s casinos have been seeing a loss of revenue due to competition from surrounding states and tribal casinos. It’s a bill (SB 552) that’s drawing plenty of attention this week and inspiring some of the state’s leaders to proclaim that Indiana could benefit from an expansion to its current gambling legislation.
Indiana Sports Betting
SB 552 would permit the casinos in the state to allow sports betting online or in person after receiving permission from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Bettors would be allowed to place wagers on collegiate and professional sports, but not youth or high school games. Any bettor would have to be 21 years of age or older.
The Plan for Casinos
Two of Gary’s riverboat casinos will be moved off Lake Michigan to elsewhere: one possibly to Terre Haute and the other will go somewhere else, land-based, in Gary.
Other casino operators are worried that moving the casinos will hurt their own business. Another issue that could arise is if other lawmakers see this as an expansion of gaming.
The New Sports Betting Bill
Many gambling-related issues are addressed in Senate Bill 552, to the point that Chairman Ron Alting of the Senate Public Policy Committee says it’s the biggest overhaul since 1993 when the state’s lawmakers decided to allow riverboat casinos on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senate Mark Messmer (Jasper), says the plan to move the casinos will increase state revenue and help all of the casinos be more competitive:
“With no additional licenses and no additional table games, I don’t know how you can call it an expansion of gaming.”
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma calls the plan a “very large expansion of gaming,” which could definitely impede the bill’s passage.
The State’s Tax Revenue
Indiana receives tax revenue from all the casinos, but that amount has been declining in recent years. In 2010, casino tax revenue made up almost 5.5 percent, or $680 million. In 2018, that revenue was down to 2.8 percent of the budget year, or $442 million.
The Gary Casino Move
Senate Bill 552 would permit Spectacle Entertainment, the company buying the two Majestic Star Casino boats in Gary, to build a brand-new land-based casino in Gary while also moving the second boat’s casino license to Terre Haute.
Spectacle is planning a $300 million project to build the new casino along with a 200-room hotel in Gary along I 80-94. General Counsel for Spectacle, John Keeler, said that it would add around 400 jobs to the current 800 employees if they build the new casino.
With the move, a cargo hub could also be developed involving Lake Michigan and nearby highways and railways to attract shipping business that currently goes through Chicago.
The Terre Haute Plan
Terre Haute and Vigo County, with a total population of around 110,000, is the number one choice for a new casino site, even though there are much larger locations. The reason for this: leaders in Terre Haute are asking for it. Other cities have failed to show much interest.
One of the Spectacle’s co-owners is from Terre Haute. The company says they will hire between 300 to 400 workers and the casino project would cost around $100 million.
There’s at least one more operator in the state who is interested in getting in on the Terre Haute action. The bill allows companies to present proposals for the new casino to the state’s Gaming Commission. One interested party may be Full House Resorts, which has been asking for permission to expand for the last few years.
Terre Haute is far enough away from other casinos, Messmer says, and shouldn’t cause much hurt to them, while it works to pull customers from central and eastern Illinois, where there aren’t any casinos.
Among others supporting the bill, officials from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Colts are said to be for this new gaming expansion.
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