Talk about waiting until the last minute. As the second hand was slowly advancing toward the end of the legislative session, Indiana lawmakers managed to sign off on a gaming expansion bill for the state. It was the largest expansion package Indiana has seen to date and will now go before Governor Eric Holcomb for his signature.
Controversial House Bill 1015 (HB 1015) seeks to make a lot of changes to Indiana’s gambling landscape. It authorizes mobile sports wagers, which will certainly cause a disturbance, as well as the relocation of two riverboat casinos, which is going to cause an even greater disturbance.
Currently, Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II, both owned by Spectacle Entertainment, operate as riverboat casinos while moored at Buffington Harbor on Lake Michigan. They each have their own operating license, but function as a single casino. HB 1015 will allow Spectacle to relocate one of its licenses to a land-based casino in Gary and the other to Terre Haute. However, it would have to compete for the Terre Haute venue against other casino operators.
Spectacle’s new Gary venue would offer the same amount of gaming activity as do Majestic Star I and II combined. This would convert the casino into the largest in the state; however, the taxes assessed would be calculated as if Spectacle were still operating the two riverboat casinos.
Some lawmakers see a dark future ahead because of the bill. Representative Ben Smaltz, who opposed the legislation, told The Indianapolis Star, “This is a monumental policy shift, and this is the beginning…This issue is going to come back and haunt us in the future.”
HB 1015 doesn’t just focus on Spectacle, though. It allows live table games at racetracks and raises the limit on the number of casinos a single operator can own from two to six.
Some lawmakers have called out Governor Holcomb for having a too-comfortable relationship with Spectacle. It has been reported that he has accepted trips on the private jet owned by the company’s owners, Greg Gibson and Rod Ratcliff, which has allowed them unfettered access to the state’s top play caller. If Holcomb signs HB 1015, backlash from his opposition is almost a guarantee.