Friday, January 28, 2005

Indiana Legislator Wants Unity on Racino

IssueDate Posted: 1/27/2005 7:36:21 AMLast Updated: 1/28/2005 11:52:42 AMby James PlatzTwo proposals calling for pull-tab machines at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs received their first hearing Jan. 26, but after three hours of debate in the Indiana House Public Policy and Veterans Affairs Committee, one thing was clear: Legislation to authorize the machines could meet an early fate.
Rep. Robert Alderman, chairman of the committee, may not further entertain the competing bills because of a lack of consensus and the potential for representatives' votes on pull-tab legislation becoming an issue in 2006 elections. Alderman said legislation wouldn't advance until there is one proposal.
"Clearly all the various parties in the bill do not agree," he said. "I want a single specific proposal placed before me."
Alderman fears legislation utilizing pull-tabs--video lottery terminals--as the primary funding mechanism for a new Indianapolis Colts stadium would force lawmakers to take positions that could hurt them in the next election. He's willing to take the legislation off the table, and said if that transpires, it wouldn't be revived during the current session.
"This is not my issue," he said. "I certainly don't live or die on this issue. I will drop the issue in the trash can before I let it become political."
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson was among those that testified Jan. 26. Peterson is supporting pull-tab legislation as a means to meet the $46 million in annual revenue needed to finance the new $500-million retractable-roof stadium for the NFL franchise.
Peterson had lobbied for pull-tabs at a downtown Indianapolis location, but House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Mitch Daniels rejected that idea. Rep. Vanessa Summers has proposed an amendment that would place 2,500 machines in Marion County, but not at a downtown location.
Both proposals call for 2,500 machines at both Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs. In each of the last two years, similar proposals passed the Indiana House but stalled in the Senate. Currently, both tracks share in a $27-million subsidy that comes from riverboat casino admission tax revenue. Both track operators and many in the racing industry are looking to pull-tabs as a means for firm financial footing.
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