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.