Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Slots At Bars?

This year's legislative push to allow slot machines at the state's two horse race tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville is spawning another gambling initiative--this one to allow gambling devices in bars, fraternal lodges and other places which sell alcohol. The Indiana Licensed Beverage Association is seeking to amend the slots at tracks bill. The Evansville Courier-Press reports:

The Indiana Licensed Beverage Association today will be lobbying state senators to amend House Bill 1835, already before the Senate, concerning slots-at-tracks.

It wants to allow electronic gaming devices at establishments that serve alcohol.
Such a change would curtail underground illegal gambling while allowing state and local governments to reap hundreds of millions in new gaming revenue, said Brad Klopfenstein, executive director of the beverage association, which represents about 700 establishments.

Gaming devices would be linked electronically with the state, as lottery purchases are now, to track play and payouts, he said.

"Something more along the lines of an ATM machine," Klopfenstein said.

For-profit establishments that sell alcohol by the drink would be allowed to have up to five machines each under the proposal. Nonprofits, such as fraternal lodges and VFW posts, could have up to 10. After the establishments kept their cut, local governments would keep a third of the gambling revenue and the state two thirds, Klopfenstein said. He estimated the machines could generate $300 million in tax revenue.

"There seems to be a lot of $200 million to $300 million proposals that are unfunded on the table. We've got a revenue source to fund one of your projects; use it if you will," Klopfenstein said.

What is particularly interesting about these initiatives to expand gambling in Indiana is how quiet the religious right groups like Advance America, the American Family Association and the Indiana Family Institute have been. Pervasive gambling has been demonstrated to have a devastating impact on the families of gambling addicts. Hell, there's been more than two or three cases recently of a church clergy and treasurers raiding church funds to feed their gambling addictions. Instead, these groups are devoting all their energy this legislative session to gay bashing--pushing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and opposing hate crimes legislation.

Several years ago when I lobbied for an Indian tribe in northern Indiana seeking to locate a casino on its tribal lands as it is permitted to do under federal law, Advance America's Eric Miller pushed state legislation sponsored by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker to ban Native American casinos in Indiana. The legislation was clearly discriminatory, but Miller claimed land-based casinos represented a major expansion in gambling in Indiana. The riverboat casinos quietly supported the push because they didn't want the competition from a land-based casino. I would be very interested in seeing a full disclosure of who is donating to these nonprofit religious right groups. Is it possible they are being bought off to remain silent about these latest efforts to expand gambling in Indiana?

UPDATE: The Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee approved the slots at tracks bill (HB 1835) today by a vote of 9-3. The committee reduced the number of slot machines each race track could have from 2,500 to 1,500. It also increased the franchise fee from $100 million to $400 million. The franchise fee begs the question of how the horse race track owners could afford to shell out so much money for a franchise fee if they are in such dire financial straits as they claim to be. The Senate Committee has also chosen to use revenues derived from the slots to help fund higher education's life science initiatives, which would have been funded through the privatization of the Hoosier Lottery under legislation approved earlier by the Senate, but which appears to be dead in the House.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unrelated, but:

http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/16938642.htm

Anonymous said...

Interesting tie-in, Gary. But don't try to make logic and Indiana politics work hand-in-hand. It's like putting a stupid man in a round barn and telling him to pee in the corner. You'll die before you get relief.

Anonymous said...

Bill Allowing Slot Machines at Horse Tracks Passes Senate Committee

http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=22394

Intersting that horse tracks are pleading poverty to get slots, yet they can afford $600 million to get them.

Anonymous said...

Why would a bunch of Hoosiers spend millions to buy the money loosing Anderson horse track unless they knew they were going to get slots?

Anonymous said...

If the horse tracks can't make money after a decade of state mandated subsidies then they should go out of business.

Obviously profits are being "managed" to show losses to justify additional state subsidies or these private businesses are failures that don't deserve additional state assistance.

Wilson46201 said...

Opposition to gambling has long been a major item in the conservative Protestant agenda in Indiana - it is indeed peculiar that the Miller minions should be so quiescent on this issue. Your Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff certainly played and plied the fundies with cash to oppose some forms of gambling to benefit the gambling interests of his clients. Your GOP golden boy Ralph Reed was brought down by this hypocrisy about gambling.

We know Eric Miller has no scruples - it's a good observation that he ls likely taking a paid dive on this gambling bill.

Chris Douglas said...

With regard to that fee, racetrack owners anticipate such profits that that the government is saying it too must get a share. They aren't going to be paying those fees out of their own pockets... they'll be financing the fees by borrowing the money, I would guess.

Anonymous said...

Based upon the promises made every time they wanted to expand gambling over two decades, we should expect that the states gambling proceeds are already going towards education.

Clearly they are not. They are using the same false advertising and last minute bait and switch tactics that have worked every time before.

Anonymous said...

Who would get the proceeds from a future sale of the horse track gambling license, off track betting parlor licenses, and the new casino slots license?

Based upon the recent sale of several Indiana Casinos, the billions in profits from the increased value of these licenses went to the politically connected insiders.

(The exception is the Orange County Casino license which dictates that these same proceeds would go to the state treasury)

Anonymous said...

These silly politician think that more gambling will bring in more tax revenue.

Expanding gambling in central Indiana will not increase the states tax base. It will only recirculate "old" money that would have been spent in our state anyway.

The idea behind requiring casinos to be on water was intended to require them to locate on our states borders with large cities like Chicago, Louisville,& Cincinnati. This would entice out-of-state people to come across the state border and spend "new" money in our state thereby increasing Indiana's tax base.

This current batch of politicians need to learn economics and kill this bill.