Indiana Racetrack Slots Bill Headed to Governor

Indiana lawmakers advanced a bill to the desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels late April 29 that would permit slot machines at the state's two pari-mutuel racetracks.

Both chambers of the General Assembly approved a committee report for legislation that calls for 2,000 machines at each track and a $250-million licensing fee. The $500 million in fees generated by both licenses would immediately go to property tax relief.

"Our constituents want us to help," Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long told fellow lawmakers as the session came to a close. "We're doing what we can, even though the source of the money is certainly not my choice. It is where we are right now given the circumstances the state is facing."

Those circumstances are property taxes that are projected to increase an average of 24% statewide this year. Faced with those facts, the Indiana House endorsed the report developed by a conference committee on a vote of 54-44. The measure then moved to the Indiana Senate, where it passed by a 33-17 vote.

The legislation calls for a graduated tax schedule. The first $100 million in adjusted receipts on slot machines would be taxed at a 25% rate. The next $100 million would be taxed at 30%, and revenue exceeding $200 million would call for a 35% tax rate. In addition, each track would be required to spend a minimum $100 million on the facilities that will house slot machines.

Each chamber of the General Assembly passed versions of the bill earlier this year, and the measure moved to a conference committee. The House version of the bill called for a $100-million licensing fee for 2,500 machines at each location. The Senate version, however, would have allowed only 1,500 machines and a licensing fee of $400 million.

The General Assembly also passed legislation that would target about 20,000 illegal video gambling machines around the state. That bill could be coupled with the racetrack slots measure; the governor has said he supports a reduction in gambling in the state.