Indiana House Passes Legalized Gambling Bill

Published on: January 30, 2008 

In a 62-36 victory proponents of a gambling bill that would allow taverns and bars in Indiana to offer low-stakes gambling games had a small yet important victory.  The bill, which now goes to the state’s Senate, would allow bars and taverns to offer pull tabs and other games to their customers in a legal, rule abiding environment.  Of course, opponents of the bill do not want to see it passed, citing that this would just be another expansion of legalized gambling.

Currently, charitable organizations, fraternities, and clubs have offered pull tab games under a bingo license, a special license that was created in the State specifically for this provision in 2007.  These are paper games that have tab windows with symbols beneath them.  The back of the cards list the winning combinations and only cost a dollar.  Payouts are for seventy-five percent of the money to the winner and the charity receiving the other twenty-five.  Punchboards and tip boards, two similar games to the pull tabs and also pay cash prizes, would be allowed under the laws and regulations of the new bill.

Bars and taverns would be required to obtain licenses in order to offer their customers the games.  They would be required to pay fees, and excise taxes on the ticket sales.  If passed, the new law would also require the businesses to split two-thirds of the revenue between the county and municipality in which the establishment is located.  The other third would go to the many county school districts.  Revenue is estimated to be somewhere between five and twenty-five million dollars annually.

The struggling economy is part of what has prompted proponents of the bill to seek out legislative support for the bill.  Many bars and taverns are suffering financially and by offering these games, the revenue on the additional fees that they would charge might help keep some of them in business.  It will also help cash-strapped local governments and school districts who are in desperate need of supplies and equipment.

Conflicting arguments against the bill have come from both sides of the political fence.  Some of the legislators see the legalized gambling bill as a good thing, others do not.  There is a fear that by allowing these games to be available in these establishments will only help promote yet another addiction.  While underage gambling would not be allowed in theses bars and taverns, there is question as to whether or not adults can handle the consequences.  

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, believes that the bill would only start more problems, comparing low-stakes gambling games to crack cocaine addiction.  Gambling is Indiana’s ‘drug of choice’.  However, one of the bill’s sponsors is Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Meeks, R-LaGrange, whose stand on the bill is for the state’s overall economic health.

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