By Bryan Wells
INDIANAPOLIS– The Indiana House voted 78-15 Monday for a bill that further expands gambling in this state.
Senate Bill 552, sponsored in the House by Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, legalizes sports wagering; moves two Gary casinos from that city’s lakefront to an inland site closer to Interstate 94 and creates a new casino in the Terre Haute area.
But with the House making major changes from the Senate-passed version – including provisions that bar sports betting on mobile devices and require the governor to make public any meetings he has with gambling interests – it’s still a work in progress.
A final version now will be negotiated between House and Senate conferees in the closing days of this legislative session.
Monday, numerous representatives went to the microphone to urge passage, even as they wanted changes. Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, said he hopes the final version gives live dealers to Indiana’s two racinos in Shelbyville and Anderson sooner than the current date of 2021. And Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, said he hopes the final bill eliminates the proposed $50 million fee the Gary casino operator is charged to move inland; the Senate version charged $100 million.
Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, urged her colleagues to “take a statewide view for a second” before voting on this bill.
“Right now, gaming is the fourth greatest source of revenue in our state, (with) 12,000 employees, and that includes the lottery and everyone else. Charity gaming alone is about a $400-million-dollar industry in this state,” she said.
And, she argued, they needed to keep working on this bill. Sports betting is being legalized in other states, she said, and Indiana needs to regulate it or fall behind.
Bryan Wells is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.