Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers negotiate the final details of gaming legislation, the future of live dealers at racetrack casinos remains one of the most controversial provisions.  Racino advocates made a final public plea Wednesday.

When the gaming bill left the House, it allowed racinos to replace some electronic games with tables that have live dealers.  The Senate altered that arrangement, instead allowing racinos to add live dealers beginning in 2021. 

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Local communities with casinos could face significant financial losses under changes made Thursday in the House Ways and Means Committee to gaming industry legislation.

Communities where casinos are located currently get four pots of money because of those facilities: dollars from the admittance tax and the wagering tax, money from the state to supplement previous losses in the admittance tax, and money from what are called local development agreements, or LDAs -- essentially, side contracts with the casinos themselves. 

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A bill designed to help Indiana casinos struggling from declining revenues is moving forward despite the objections of some in the gaming community.  A House committee approved the measure Thursday, the first step towards passage.

Indiana’s gaming revenues have been in steady decline for some time, worsened in recent years by increased competition in neighboring states. 

Proposed legislation would allow racetrack casinos to add a limited number of table games with live dealers, while the state’s riverboats would be permitted to move inland on their existing footprint. 

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The future of land-based casinos in Indiana could come down to the definition of “footprint,” according to the debate at a legislative study committee meeting Wednesday.

Some of Indiana’s riverboats say permitting land-based casinos allows them to build better facilities and strengthens their ability to compete with the growing number of casinos in other states. 

Pete Liguori is the CEO of Majestic Star Casinos in northwest Indiana.  He says allowing riverboats to move on land has positive benefits for the community.

A new chairman in the Indiana House Public Policy committee is giving gaming industry officials hope for more success in the legislature.

Indiana’s gaming industry has been hit hard in the last few years, both by the recession and increased competition from neighboring states.