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Legislature likely to delay casino changes till 2015

– A key state legislator doesn’t expect the General Assembly to make many changes to Indiana’s casino laws during its upcoming session.

Lawmakers had lengthy debates in this year’s session over bills aimed at boosting Indiana’s casinos as they face greater competition from neighboring states, but they turned down most of those proposals.

New House Public Policy Committee Chairman Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said Thursday he’s working to learn about the casino issues and expects debate on any major changes to wait until the 2015 session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma named Dermody the committee chairman last month after the resignation of Rep. Bill Davis of Portland, who became Gov. Mike Pence’s director of community and rural affairs.

Gambling issues expected to be on hold include considering again whether to allow live table games such as blackjack and roulette at the two horse track casinos near Indianapolis, where only electronic versions of those games are now allowed, the Anderson Herald Bulletin reported.

“I think that discussion will be for future sessions after this next one,” Dermody said.

Bosma and Davis largely opposed many of the casino proposals as an unwarranted expansion of gambling.

Dermody said he expected to talk with Pence about casino issues but believed the governor’s opposition to gambling expansion included additional table games.

Mike Smith, president of the Casino Association of Indiana, said he expected few gambling bills would be considered during the legislative session that begins in January, partly because the General Assembly will be meeting only until mid-March.

Dermody’s district is near the Blue Chip casino in Michigan City, which Smith said he believed made Dermody more receptive to the casino industry’s concerns.

“I think from an industry standpoint, he’s a very open individual, and it’s going to be good to have someone of his character in that position,” Smith said.

This year’s debate over reducing taxes on the 13 Indiana casinos and allowing the live table games at the horse track casinos came as the state anticipates a 15 percent drop in casino tax collections during the coming years. State officials blame the decline in part on the opening of new casinos in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois taking business away from the Indiana sites.

Smith said 2015 might be the right time for a broad look at casino regulations.

“We are facing some troubling times right now,” he said. “For the future of the industry, we need to look at the whole tax model.”

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