Groups push for Indiana to legalize casino-like gambling in bars, other establishments

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The electronic games you play at the casino could be coming to your neighborhood, if some lobbying groups have their way.

The Indiana Amusement and Music Operators Association, Indiana Licensed Beverage Association, Indiana Bowling Centers Association, and others are in the midst of a campaign to legalize video gaming terminals statewide.

The games, VGT’s, are similar to the electronic slot games you find in casinos these days. They would be limited to $2 wagers at most, with the maximum payout $599.

A bill drafted by those groups would legalize VGT’s in establishments that limit access to those under 21, including bars, VFW and American Legion posts, bowling alleys, and truck stops.

“Basically what we’re trying to do is create revenues for local  businesses and local communities through VGT’s, which they have done in Illinois very successfully. … We’re trying to mirror that effort,” Bill Smythe, a lobbying for IAMOA, said.

Illinois legalized the machines in 2012.

“They’re up to almost 22,000 machines now generating almost a billion dollars in revenues, which nets the state about $300 million,” Smythe said.

FOX59 talked to truck drivers, who see the machines in Illinois and other states. Many said they didn’t think they were worth the money, but did see people occasionally playing them.

“The odds of winning are so ridiculously bad that it’s not even worth it, it’s a waste of money,” truck driver Charlie Goodman said.

“I don’t really think it’s going to be a really big issue unless you have a really bad gambling problem,” truck driver Steve Raven said.

Smythe argued that the games generate revenue for businesses, and for the state. The bill, which was quickly shot down in the last session, has been re-drafted in hopes of getting legislators to see dollar signs.

“We adjusted our bill last session to accommodate for 80 percent of the taxation to be applied to road infrastructure and of that, half goes to the state and half goes to local communities,” Smythe said. “It’s really as simple as that, there’s going to be a tax or they can use the revenues generated from this.”

So far, no legislators have publicly said they’ll sponsor the legislation. Smythe said the groups have been in talks with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and are hoping to benefit from the upcoming election.

Informational sessions have been held throughout the state. The latest will take place on Tuesday in Evansville.