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Bill would prevent casino moving to Clark

The Indiana Senate narrowly approved legislation last week that would prohibit a casino boat from moving to Clark County.
‘Presently, it prohibits a casino from moving anywhere,’ Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, said of the bill.
As approved by the Senate, House Bill 1835 lists the specific counties where Southern Indiana casinos are permitted, and Clark County is not one of them.
The legislation would also allow slot machines at Indiana’s two race tracks and would end the need for casino boats to be self-propelled, possibly eliminating the need for casino boats to be manned. It would also give the state’s casinos a tax break worth a total of $30 million annually.
House Bill 1835 passed the Senate 27-21 after a few significant amendments.
Those include a reduction in the number of slot machines allowed per track, from 2,500 to 1,500 and an increase in the licensing fee per track, from $100 million to $400 million.
‘Slots at these two Indianapolis-area tracks could negatively impact Caesars Indiana’s business and that of all other Southern Indiana casino operations,’ Judy Hess, communications director for Caesars Indiana said, adding the casino does not discuss specific questions about pending legislation.
Robertson said $400 million may be too much for a licensing fee, and it may defer someone from investing in Indiana.
It is undecided how the state would use that money.
The bill will now return to the House for consideration of the amendments made by the Senate. The bill, authored by Reps. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon, and Matt Whetstone, R-Brownsburg, previously passed the House 54-39.
Robertson said he believes the bill will go to a conference committee where representatives from the House and Senate would try to reach an agreement on the bill.
Robertson added there is a lot of concern for the expansion of gaming in Indiana and how dependent Indiana is becoming on gambling.
However, not all state officials feel the same.
‘This a triple crown for the state of Indiana,’ Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said in a statement. ‘It benefits the horse racing industry, it benefits the Anderson community, and it benefits virtually every district in Indiana.’
Lanane’s home in Anderson is the location of Hoosier Park, one of two racing tracks in Indiana. The other is Indiana Downs in Shelbyville.
The bill could also end the jobs of riverboat casino captains and their crews. Indiana currently has nine casino boats that employ full-time crews. Caesars Indiana is among them.
Hess said the casino does still employ full-time crews, and the Coast Guard determines the number needed in each position, according to their standards.
Before 2002, casino boats ‘cruised’ Lake Michigan and the Ohio River until the General Assembly decided it was better for the boats to be docked. Even then, the cruises were brief, most less than an hour.
Hess said there were many advantages for the casinos not to cruise, including allowing guests to come and go as they please, and patrons not having to rush to board the casino. Hess also said safety is a significant advantage for having a boat docked.

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