Indiana Racetrack Gaming Bill Clears Committee

By James Platz

A bill that would allow electronic pull-tab machines at Indiana racetracks and two satellite wagering facilities crossed a second hurdle Jan. 21. The House Ways and Means committee approved the legislation by a 17-10 vote and sent it along for consideration by the full House.

The bill would permit 5,000 pull-tab machines (video lottery terminals): 1,000 each at both Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs, and 1,500 machines at off-track locations in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. If adopted, pull-tabs could generate $93 million for the state each year, and local governments could share $66 million.

For Madison and Shelby Counties, where Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs are located, respectively, the measure could mean $9 million annually.

The legislation calls for joint operation of the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne OTB parlors between both permit holders. Hoosier Park currently operates the OTB facilities in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Merrillville. Indiana Downs opened an OTB parlor in Evansville a year ago, and is set to open a facility in Clarksville--just across the Ohio River from Churchill Downs--in mid-March.

Earlier in January, the House Public Policy, Ethics, and Veterans Affairs Committee passed the bill by a 12-1 margin. If it is adopted by the full House, it could encounter much greater resistance in the Senate.

Two years ago, a similar bill passed through both chambers of the General Assembly but died in conference committee. In 2003, legislation never made it out of the House; it was killed by House Speaker Patrick Bauer before it could advance.