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January 22, 2013

State lawmakers aim to shore up riverboat casinos

Senate committee will take up bill Wednesday



Other provisions of Boots’ bill would allow the state’s 10 riverboat casinos — five on the Ohio River and five on Lake Michigan — to move to property next to their docks and drop a ban on live table games, such as blackjack and roulette, at the horse track casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville. Only electronic gambling machines are currently allowed at the tracks.

A bill from Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, would let Majestic Star casino in Gary move from its dock along Lake Michigan to a spot in the city, a change Gary leaders have sought for several years. They hope to boost business by putting the casino closer to a highway, but the move has been opposed by officials in neighboring Hammond and East Chicago, which have their own casinos.

Charbonneau’s bill would take away one of Majestic Star’s casino licenses for its two riverboats in exchange for the inland site. Charbonneau said moving the riverboats would open up a spot for a new Indiana shipping port along Lake Michigan that’s needed because of growth at the nearby Burns Harbor port.

“The only place with significant enough property happens to be where the Majestic Star boats are located,” he said.

State Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, said allowing casinos to move more freely should be considered. Grooms is not on the committee considering the Senate bill.

“There may be some adjustments needed and if we have a casino operation that wants to move, appeals to the Indiana Gaming Commission and they’re willing to make a settlement with the community they’re leaving and the Indiana Gaming Commission ... then I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at that type of legislation,” Grooms said. “If the current operators want to move to another community and reach an agreement with the city or county they’re leaving and the gaming commission is OK with that, I have no problem looking at a bill that would allow that kind of move to happen.”

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