(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Indiana House is pondering how far to go with a rewrite of the state’s gambling laws which has pitted Indiana’s casinos against each other.
Workers at East Chicago’s Ameristar Casino donned giant red buttons reading “Save Our Jobs” as they packed the House gallery for a committee hearing on a bill which would allow Gary’s Majestic Star Casino to move off the lakefront to downtown. Representatives of Ameristar, Hammond’s Horsehoe Casino, and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland protest the plan blows up longstanding rules allowing land-based casinos only within the existing footprint of the casino. They argue a “hold-harmless” guarantee promising those casinos won’t lose money isn’t enough to avoid harming what Copeland calls “the everyday Joe.”
Majestic Star actually holds two casino licenses, which it’s used for one megacasino. The bill would move one of those licenses to Terre Haute. House Majority Leader Matthew Lehman (R-Berne) worries moving the two licenses would destroy the last vestige of the original “riverboat casino” concept and open a path for casinos to move anywhere in the state.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says clearing the casino off the lakefront would allow the city to build its port into a major shipping hub.
And Lawrenceburg’s Hollywood Casino is objecting to a provision allowing live dealers at the racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville. That change is currently scheduled to happen in two years. Senate Majority Leader Mark Messmer (R-Jasper), the bill’s author, says legislators had agreed to authorize live dealers in 2015, but pushed the date back to avoid a veto from then-Governor Mike Pence.
The bill also authorizes sports betting at Indiana casinos. Representatives of the Indianapolis Colts, IndyCar, and the PGA Tour were on hand to endorse restrictions in the Senate bill aimed at ensuring casinos report any suspicious betting patterns.
The House Public Policy Committee isn’t expected to vote until at least next week.