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Legislature Approves ‘Monumental Shift’ To Indiana Gambling Industry

By Brandon Smith, IPB News | Published on in Government, Politics
The Indiana Statehouse (Brandon Smith/IPB News)
The Indiana Statehouse (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

Lawmakers approved what one legislator called a “monumental shift” to Indiana’s gambling industry before the 2019 session ended Wednesday.

The biggest changes to the gaming industry: a Gary casino can move to a better location in the city, subject to a $20 million payment. If that happens, a Terre Haute casino can open, though Vigo County residents must approve a public referendum to allow that.

Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson) says the bill makes important changes for the state’s third largest revenue source.

“This is being progressive and it’s recognizing that, in a free market, you had better stay on your toes or you’re going to be left behind,” Austin says.

Austin’s district is one that will benefit from the bill; it includes one of the state’s two racetrack casinos, which will be able to add live dealers to their table games January 1, 2020 because of the measure.

The legislation also legalizes sports wagering statewide, including online and mobile betting, which Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) says goes too far.

“And I’m not excited about it,” Smaltz says. “I’m not excited about having sports wagering in my community, anywhere.”

A significant hold up to the bill in the session’s final days was so-called “hold harmless” language – money paid to communities whose revenues would be harmed by the new casinos created in the bill. In the end, East Chicago, Hammond, Michigan City, French Lick and Evansville will all get those dollars.

The bill heads to the governor’s desk after both chambers approved it.