Live dealer games starting at 2 casinos in central Indiana

Indiana’s latest gambling expansion comes Wednesday as two horse track casinos near Indianapolis will be allowed to have table games with live dealers for the first time.

Officials of Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville have long pushed for the change that they expect will draw more gamblers as the two casinos have been limited to only electronic games since opening in 2008.

Indiana Grand will have more than 40 tables for games such as blackjack, craps and roulette and Hoosier Park will have nearly 30 tables as those new sections open up New Year’s Day afternoon. Hoosier Park has an opening ceremony planned with Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo.

The change will allow the two horse track casinos to operate essentially the same as the 11 other state-regulated casinos, mostly along Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. The tribal casino is South Bend is still limited to only electronic games.

Tonya Johnson of Indianapolis said during a visit to the Shelbyville casino last week that she was looking forward to the change.

“I just like the live people,” Johnson said. “The interaction and everything.”

Live dealers weren’t going to be allowed at the horse track casinos until July 2021 as then-Gov. Mike Pence objected to that change being included in a 2015 gambling bill approved by state lawmakers. But that date was moved up by 18 months in a wide-ranging gambling bill signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb in May that included the legalization of sports betting and allowing construction of new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.

Dan Nita, regional president for Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Anderson and Shelbyville casinos, said he expected both sites will soon expand their live table game sections.

“I think we will very quickly be able to demonstrate that the (central Indiana) market can support two to three times as many table games as we’re currently set up with,” Nita said.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates the new table games will mean a $12 million a year boost in state tax revenue after accounting for projected declines at other Indiana casinos. That would mean about a 3% boost in the $443 million of state casino taxes collected during the 2019 budget year.

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