Indiana Riverboats Lose Effort to Get Dockside Gambling

Efforts by Indiana riverboat casino interests to get approval of dockside gambling fell short when the Senate Rules Committee voted 5-3 against the legislation. According to published reports, one factor in the bill's failure was an amendment that deleted authorization for pull-tab gaming at Churchill Downs-managed Hoosier Park and off-track betting sites in the state. The amendment also did away with a proposed OTB site in the resort area of French Lick.

Proponents of the dockside gambling measure contended the casinos should be allowed to offer gambling while docked, allowing patrons to board and unboard whenever they wanted. Lobbyists for the 10 casinos said dockside gambling would enable the Indiana riverboats to remain competitive with those in neighboring Illinois, which allows dockside gambling.

Under current law, the boats are required to take two-hour cruises and precludes passengers from boarding and unboarding even when weather or other factors keep the vessels docked, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Despite the setback, the Senate committee's action may not kill the effort to get dockside gambling. Because the legislation had already passed the House, proponents could insert the language into other legislation later in the session, according to theCourier-Jorunal.

Sen. Larry Borst, the bill's Senate sponsor, told the newspaper that some rules committee members "listen to Hoosier Park," which would have also seen its annual subsidy from a riverboat admissions tax reduced to $6-million from $6.8-million if the bill passed. Borst said Hoosier Park's opposition was a key reason the bill failed in committee, according to the Courier-Journal.