Lawmakers respond to Ohio casino competition

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers are considering new rules for Indiana casinos to help them battle competition.  And there is new competition from Ohio.  After two years of construction, a Horseshoe Casino opens Monday evening in downtown Cincinnati.

The new Cincinnati casino will take business away from as many as six Indiana casinos and state lawmakers here are being told there could be layoffs to go along with lost tax revenues. 

"We can already see the receipts in our casinos in the border areas along the Ohio already starting to decline," says state Representative Terry Goodin (D-Crothersville).

It's why the state Senate passed a bill that would permit riverboat casinos to move on shore while racinos could replace electronic table games with live dealers. 

"The goal of that bill is not to expand gaming," said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, "but to try to staunch the loss of revenue this state is experiencing and will experience in the future."

But as the bill awaits a hearing in the Indiana House, Speaker Brian Bosma says he doesn't like it. 

"The bill appears to me to be a pretty significant expansion of gaming in the state," he said last week.  And the governor says his goal is to maintain the status quo. 

"I am not categorically opposed to giving these businesses an opportunity to be more economically viable," said Mike Pence.  "I am not interested in expanding gaming in Indiana."

Rep. Goodin, the House sponsor of the casino bill, needs to sell them on his definition of expansion.  

"They're already gambling, so whether they're using a slot machine, or whether they're using cards on a table, to me gambling is gambling," he said, "and I don't see how you can call that an expansion."

Nevertheless, look for big changes in the casino bill before it advances.

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The fact is, these businesses had plenty of warning this competition was coming. Did they do anything to improve their businesses, or add (non-gambling) attractions? It appears that no, they instead have decided to lobby the statehouse to decrease gambling regulation. How many other businesses expect to expand strictly through government de-regulation, without developing new products with their own revenue?

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