HAMMOND – A top legislative leader wants to make Indianas riverboat casinos more attractive so they can compete better with newer venues in neighboring states.
Indiana Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he wants the General Assembly to do something to reverse the decline in state tax revenues from casino wagers and admissions.
There is an all-out assault on the system that Indiana has implemented, which was to take other peoples money. Theyre out to get it back, Long said, referring to neighboring states.
Ten of Indianas 13 casinos are located in counties adjacent to other states. But several tribal casinos have opened in southern Michigan near the Indiana border, and Illinois has proposed casinos for Chicago and its south suburbs. Two of Ohios four casinos will be located in Toledo and Cincinnati, both near the Indiana border.
They are going to resolve that (in Illinois), and they are going to build casinos probably one right on the Indiana border, according to my sources, Long told the Times of Munster.
So they will be trying not only to keep their residents there but to take some of ours over.
Indiana casino tax revenue from wagers and admissions were 5.4 percent lower last year than in 2008. Gaming taxes remain Indianas third-largest source of revenue after income and sales taxes, but now make up just 4 percent of the states total revenue stream.
Theres a lot of pressure on us as a very important source of revenue is going down, Long said. Gaming revenue is under assault right now.
Indiana doesnt need more casinos, just more competitive ones, Long said.
That could mean a lot of things, so well just have to see what the proposal is, Long said.
Then well have to run it past our caucus and see if theres an appetite for doing anything about it.
Attempts to win approval for moving Garys Majestic Star casinos inland from the Lake Michigan shoreline have faltered in the legislature in the past.
Thats in part because of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.s efforts to protect his citys Horseshoe Casino.
Long said hes more open to a Gary casino deal now, but he said any plan for gaming changes will need support from the entire northwest Indiana delegation.
Its very important for Lake County to have everyone reading off the same page for what theyd like to see for their community, and then we can talk about it, Long said.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who sponsored the legislation creating casino gambling in Indiana and championed a land-based casino in Gary, was pleased by Longs remarks.
Just the recognition of the surrounding states and their impact on our gaming industry in Indiana, I think thats the first step in terms of trying to move the idea of land-based casinos forward, Rogers said.
She said she hopes a Gary-specific legislative proposal that includes a land-based casino and a teaching hospital with a trauma center and other economic development programs will have enough of everything that all lawmakers from the region will support it.