Indiana's riverboat casinos could receive tax breaks and be able to expand onto land under legislation the Senate Public Policy Committee debated Wednesday, but it won't happen anytime soon.
The panel didn't vote on the bill, however, which means it will likely head to a summer study committee for further discussion.
Sen. Phil Boots, R- Crawfordsville, called Senate Bill 364 a “very innovative idea” and stressed its importance as it pertains to Indiana’s gambling industry.
The bill would also authorize table gambling in racinos.
Competition to Indiana casinos has arisen from Ohio, which currently has six new venues drawing customers away from the Hoosier state.
“I think our operators are top notch, they just need the tools to compete with the rest of the world,” Boots said.
Indiana’s gaming revenue has been significantly declining in recent years.
In 2009, wagering at the casinos topped $2.8 billion. In 2012, it was $2.56 billion, an 11.8-percent drop.
Casino industry employment is also decreasing. In 2000, Indiana casinos employed 16,000 people, a number that has dropped to roughly 12,000.
“From a customer’s experience, you can’t compete with a land-based facility,” said Steve Jimenez, general manager of the Rising Star Casino (formerly the Grand Victoria Casino) in Rising Sun. “It gives us a good start to try to get to a level playing field.”
Jimenez also said that the legislation would help his casino bring business from out of state.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Alting, R- Lafayette, said he expected additional testimony from the owner of Rising Star – whom Alting referred to as “a brilliant mind in the field of gaming” – but the owner was unable to attend the meeting.
Alting did not bring the bill to a vote and referred the legislation to a summer study committee.