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Senate Votes To Strip Gambling Money Away: French Lick Will Be Affected

Last updated on Sunday, February 24, 2013

(INDIANAPOLIS) — The Senate voted Thursday to strip about $6 million in gambling money away from local governments as part of legislation meant to boost the casino industry.

The money comes from about $33 million in admissions taxes that the state has been sending to counties without casinos for a decade.

But Republican Senator Luke Kenley of Noblesville said that all communities must share in the effort to help casinos compete against out-of-state gambling operations. Already, Senate Bill 528 strips millions of dollars away from the communities where casinos are located and creates new tax breaks meant to help the gambling operations compete against casinos in other states.

"We've tried to balanced this," Kenley said. "We want everyone who's getting some return on this - the state, the counties with casinos, the counties without casinos - to put something into helping them."

The bill is now eligible for a full Senate vote, which is expected next week.
Currently, the $33 million in admissions tax revenue is currently divided among non-casino counties based on population. The change could mean a $1 million loss in revenue for Indianapolis and lesser amounts for counties across the state.

Communities that are home to the state's 13 casinos are set to lose $27 million in total under the legislation. That's money the state is currently paying them under a decade-old deal that under capped the revenues that local communities collect from wagering and admissions taxes but also guaranteed they'd never receive less than the amounts they collected in 2002.

The state made that promise when riverboat tax revenue was at one of its highest levels and lawmakers believed it would continue to grow. But recently, an economic downturn and competition from other states has depressed those revenues and the state is consistently paying out some of its gambling taxes to local governments to make good on the guarantees.

Before Thursday, the bill would actually have taken as much as $48 million away from those counties, but Kenley amended the legislation to reduce the impact.
The bill also would:

-- Permit the state's racetrack casinos offer table games with live dealers. Currently, table games are currently available only electronically.

-- Require Indiana Grand and Downs in Shelby County to make payments for three years to the casino in French Lick. That's to make up for business that could be lost when Indiana launches live table games.

-- Eliminate the admissions tax paid each time a person goes through the turnstiles and increases the supplemental wagering tax to make up the revenue.
-- Create a tax credit of up to $40 million annually for casinos that invest in their properties.

-- Reduce tax rates for the state's lowest-revenue casinos.
Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor from TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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