Indiana Pull-Tab Bill Shelved

By James Platz

A bill to allow for pull-tabs at Indiana's two racetracks was relegated to committee, and likely killed Monday, by House Speaker Patrick Bauer because of the pending purchase of a minority interest in one of Hoosier Park's ownership groups by one of his campaign contributors.

Bauer opted to send House Bill 1598 to the Rules Committee, known by many in the General Assembly as a legislative graveyard, after learning campaign contributor Albert H. Schumaker II, president of Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Columbus, Ind., was granted approval Friday by the Indiana Racing Commission to purchase a 5% interest in Centaur Racing, which owns 38% of Hoosier Park.

"We were blindsided and there's no other way of putting it," Bauer told the Associated Press. "There was a for sale sign on this track while there was pending legislation."

Bauer added that if his colleagues had known of the pending sale, the bill would not have received a hearing.

Hoosier Park officials insist state lawmakers have misinterpreted Friday's events. They point out only an interest in the track's minority stakeholder, not the Anderson facility itself, was sold to Schumaker.

"This is not a deal between Hoosier Park and Albert Schumaker, this is a deal between Centaur and Albert Schumaker. This was a simple business transaction," said Hoosier Park president Rick Moore.

"We want everyone to understand that Hoosier Park was not a part of this transaction. Our hope is that people will start to sort this out, and that legislators will give this [pull-tab bill] a full hearing."

Moore is optimistic that the misunderstanding will be cleared up quickly.

House Bill 1598, which calls for 750 pull-tab machines at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs, as well as 1,500 machines at off-track locations in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, was approved last week by a 9-4 margin in the House Public Policy, Ethics and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Hoosier Park officials have argued that the legislation is extremely important in securing financial viability for the horse racing industry in the state.