Slots-For-Stadium Plan Seems Dead in Indiana

by James Platz
A proposal to finance a new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts by utilizing expanded gaming in downtown Indianapolis appears to be dead.

Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma told reporters Jan. 20 Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson must find another source to fund the proposed $500-million retractable-dome stadium. In a plan submitted in late December, 1,500 pull-tab machines--video lottery terminals--located in a downtown off-track betting parlor would have served as the primary funding source for the new stadium.

"The message I'd like to send to the mayor is he ought to find another financing mechanism for a dome downtown than putting a casino in the middle of the most family-friendly city in the Midwest," Bosma said. "As far as I'm concerned, that proposal is dead."

Pull-tabs were the key to Peterson's stadium plan. The devices would generate nearly all of the $46 million needed each year to finance the venue. Another proposal is on the table, but it falls short of Peterson's request by $16 million a year. The proposal, submitted earlier this month by Representative Luke Messner, calls for 2,500 gaming machines at both Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs.

The dismissal of Peterson's pull-tab proposal isn't a death knell for the horse racing industry, which is struggling to find stable financial footing. It is likely other plans that call for pull-tabs could be introduced, or language allowing for the slot-like machines could be added to existing proposals during the General Assembly. Messner acknowledged as much when he first unveiled his plan.

"My bill won't be the last version," he told the Indianapolis Star. "In the end, it will likely look much different."

In the last several years, pull-tab legislation has successfully passed the Indiana House but has not advanced in the Senate.