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March 15, 2013

Pence opposes provisions to expand gaming

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence isn’t saying the word “veto,” but he’s making clear he opposes key provisions in a Senate gaming bill that would allow riverboat casinos to move inland and add live table games to the slot-machine rooms at the state’s two horse-racing tracks.

During a press briefing with Statehouse print reporters earlier this week, Pence said he’s “making it known” to legislators that he wants no expansion of gaming in Indiana. The Republican governor, who also said he’s never bought a lottery ticket, has said in the past that he favors the “status quo” of legalized gambling in Indiana, despite rising competition for gaming dollars in neighboring states.

But this was the first time he said he was asking legislators to oppose specific provisions in the gaming bill that he views as significantly expanding gambling.

The provisions, pushed by the gaming industry and approved by the GOP-controlled Senate, would let existing riverboat casinos move their gaming operations onto land and would let the state’s horse-track racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville become full-fledged casinos by adding live table games.

“Let me just say, we’re making it known to legislators (that) while I have no objection to finding ways we can permit these Indiana businesses to be more competitive financially, I do not support expansion of gaming in Indiana,” Pence said.

The bill is aimed at the state’s ailing casino industry, which has been losing gaming dollars to neighboring states; in turn, Indiana’s gaming tax revenues are also on the decline. Total patronage at the state’s 11 casinos have fallen under 2 million for the past five consecutive months — the longest such streak in a decade.

Meanwhile, the four new casinos that have opened in Ohio in the last 10 months are expected to see total casino revenues rise to almost $1 billion a year.

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