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Amendments squash threat from S.B. 528

Harrison County government officials can breathe a sigh of relief, for now, as Senate Bill 528 has not yet been defeated but was bruised and battered last week in a two-hour hearing of the House Public Policy Committee.
Indiana lawmakers approved amendments that would negate any effect the bill would have had on riverboat counties and the amount of money they receive from riverboat revenues.
‘Right now, if things hold, we’re OK,’ Commissioner George Ethridge said.
Ethridge said the bill had the potential to cut Harrison County’s revenue by more than $5 million per year.
The bill’s main intent was to help gambling facilities by allowing racinos to have gambling table games rather than just slot machines and to allow riverboats to become land-based casinos as long as they are built on existing property.
These provisions also were removed from the bill.
‘The bill has very little to do about anything’ after the amendments were added, Ethridge said. ‘The original bill is basically non-existent.’
One aspect of the bill still intact is a $2 million cap for casinos to deduct taxes on free play vouchers offered to gamblers. Currently, the casinos pay taxes on all free play.
Following the amendments, it passed the committee 10-3. It now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The bill was passed in the Senate with a 32-18 bipartisan vote. District 47 Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, voted against the original bill.
Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, testified last Wednesday morning in favor of an amendment restoring revenue sharing, returning the ‘hold harmless’ language to the law as was agreed upon in 2002.
‘The money that Harrison County receives has become very important to the people in my district,’ Rhoads said. ‘The revenue has improved community services, education, infrastructure and economic development in Harrison County.’
Rhoads said the casino revenue has provided such amenities as ambulance service, countywide transportation service, health services and park projects in addition to community programs like the Boys & Girls Club of Harrison County and 4-H.
‘In regards to education, revenue has funded alternative schools for troubled children, technology purchases for schools and other special projects that could not be done through the school corporation’s general funds,’ she said.
The ‘hold harmless’ amendment was unanimously passed.
Harrison County government recently hired law firm Frost Brown Todd of Indianapolis to lobby in its favor regarding riverboat revenue.

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