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Casino revenue safe for now, maybe

About $19 million in riverboat revenue for Harrison County survived a Republican threat in the House yesterday in Indianapolis, but the anvil could still fall in the Senate.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, did not call the bill out of committee that would have taken $120 million away from some riverboat communities. The deadline was Monday at midnight.
Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, said the measure could still be attached to the budget bill.
If that happens, Robertson said Monday afternoon, ‘I don’t think the Democrats would support it ‘ it’s not a very good budget anyway.
‘We can breathe a sigh of relief, at least here in the House,’ Robertson said. ‘But the ball game’s not over, by any means.
‘We have to stay on task to ensure that riverboat counties do not lose the money that’s rightfully theirs,’ Robertson said.
He said some legislators argue that the payoff to riverboat communities has been more than anyone imagined it would be, but they should also take note that the state receives three times as much as Harrison County in gambling taxes from Caesars alone.
‘From this point, we have to be watching closely because if the Senate puts that in the budget, and if they add on other things that are popular, like the Colts stadium, it will put a lot of pressure on people to vote for it,’ Robertson said.
The proposal in the Senate would take $19 million from Harrison County annually, leaving it a balance of only $4 million.
A couple of years ago, the legislature put a cap on the amount Harrison County could receive ‘ $23.4 million a year. Officials here cried foul because Caesars Indiana had not opened its 500-room hotel and had not reached its full earning potential from gambling. Therefore, neither had Harrison County.
And there has been no let-up in the demands for riverboat revenue here. Until Monday.
That meeting of the commissioners was one of the slowest since Harrison County began getting riverboat revenue in 1999. Commission chair J.R. Eckart spent much of the morning fielding calls from Indianapolis, and no clear picture evolved as to what would happen by early afternoon.
Council chair Gary Davis, who was in the audience, said whether the riverboat revenue is handled fairly is no concern to most lawmakers. ‘They can do anything they want to,’ Davis said.
Commissioners’ attorney Christopher Byrd said if the legislature takes the riverboat money, then lawyers would determine the legal recourse those communities would have.
If that were necessary, Byrd said, ‘I’m sure the riverboat communities would join together.’
The commissioners are deciding day to day whether they should be in Indianapolis.

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