House Committee Hears Testimonies On Casino Bill

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Senate Bill 552, also known as the “Gaming matters” bill, went before the House Public Policy Committee on Wednesday in the House Chambers of the Statehouse. 

Fourty two people signed up to testify either for against SB 552. Terre Haute had several local leaders tesitfy in favor of SB 552, including Mayor Duke Bennett, St. Mary-Of-The-Wood College President Dr. Dottie King, and businesswoman Sara Smith. 

There was some opposition to the bill shared on behalf of the city of East Chicago and the Ameristar Casino Hotel located there. Employees showed up wearing large red buttons that read “Save Our Jobs Ameristar”. 

According to the testimony of Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago’s Senior Vice-President and General Manager Matthew Schuffert, up to 300 jobs are expected to be lost if the casino license is moved from the area.

Representatives from the horse racing industry as well as professional sports leagues testified in favor of SB 552.

Testimonies from Terre Haute representatives focused on the “All In” initiative and the opportunies that SB 552 would bring to Vigo County. 

“I can give you a few stats that would show some of our hardships, however I’m focused on our ways to diversify our economy and bring in dollars to address those concerns. I do think Terre Haute and West Central Indiana is on the path to be one of the most competitive regions in the state, and we can certainly use the new revenue to build out aspects of our community,” said Mayor Bennett. 

“We can’t afford to resist any venture that’s going to benefit Vigo County. The increase in tourism offers an increase in the chance to generate dollars locally through our innkeeper’s tax, food and beverage tax, as well as money from increases in visitor spending,” said Vigo County Commissioner Brad Anderson. 

“What I am for the city of Terre Haute, that is I am a servant, and I serve the streets of that community, and I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. And what I’ve seen in that city, the underdevelopment of things, and I’m saying that bill 552 will do a great deal for Terre Haute,” said Hamilton Center CEO Melvin L. Burks. 

No vote was made on the bill today. Amendments and a vote will be the focus of next week’s Public Policy Committee meeting. 

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