A proposal to ease Indiana's gambling laws, by permitting riverboat casinos to move onto land and allowing live dealers for table games at the state's two racetrack casinos, won approval by a wide margin Feb. 25 in the Indiana House.
The bill that supporters say is needed to help Indiana's casinos, as they face growing competition from neighboring states, cleared the House in a 76-19 vote, despite word of Gov. Mike Pence's opposition to the live dealer provisions, which he considers an expansion of gambling in the state.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said he wants to work with the governor on the issue, but was clearly encouraged by the vote margin.
"That's a strong indication of support for the bill," he said. "I think that sends a message, at least from the House side."
Indiana's casinos have seen big declines in business and the loss of hundreds of jobs in recent years, as more gambling options have become available in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.
The proposal also would allow the two horse track casinos—Hoosier Park, which offers Standardbred racing in Anderson, and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, which offers Thoroughbred racing in Shelbyville—to have live dealers for table games, such as blackjack, which are now run by computers.
The bill would give the 10 riverboats along Lake Michigan and the Ohio River the option to build new on-land casinos on property near their current locations. Owners of the Evansville and Gary casinos have especially pushed for that change, saying they could build better facilities that could attract more customers.
The bill also offers state tax incentives to casinos for building new facilities, including hotels, performance venues, and restaurants.