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Proposal would allow video gambling in Indiana bars

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The expansion of gambling in Indiana has traditionally been a tough sell in the Statehouse.

Legislation proposed in the 2021 General Assembly, which starts next week, would allow individual counties to opt in or out of having video games in bars.

If passed by state lawmakers, the tax revenue would flow to the counties and not the state’s general fund.

Josh Caplinger is the managing partner at the Slippery Noodle Inn tavern in downtown Indianapolis. He has already picked out a room in his establishment if lawmakers give the green light. He would gladly trade the pinball machines for video poker or slot machines given the chance.  

“I think it would be great,” Caplinger said. 

This is not a new idea, Indiana bars and taverns have been asking lawmakers for decades loosen the reigns on gambling. Brad Klopenstein is the president of the Indiana licensed beverage association, a not-for-profit organization that is leading the charge. He says his organization asking lawmakers to open a door that has already been open for others.  

“We are talking about legalizing video gaming terminals for bars around the state of Indiana,” said Klopenstein. “These would be small generally independently operated locally owned bars potentially restaurants.”

The proposed legislation would allow individual bars and taverns to install a small number of video gaming machines. These machines are smaller than a pinball machine and typically are standalone consoles. The money generated by the machines would be split three ways.  

“We are talking about generating probably about $100,000 or so per location per year,” said Klopenstein. “So we are not talking huge sums of money, but that money would be split a third between the operator, a third between the location and a third between county government.”

The county would be free to use the money for any purpose they see fit and again counties can opt out if they want.

The terminals would be tied to a central computer server that would track winnings, losses and how down time. Klopenstein believes his organization has a shot at getting this passed because they are offering tax revenue during a time when many government coffers are running dry. He also expects some push back from casinos and other anti-gambling interest in the Statehouse. 

“But that ship has sailed as soon as we created the lottery and horse racing back in the late 80’s,” said Klopenstein. “Indiana is a gaming state and in the big scheme of things as far as gaming revenue in Indiana this is will be a speck this will be less than 5%.”

The proposed legislation will be introduced in the house, and with new leadership in the house of representatives there is no way of telling if it will get a full hearing or die unheard.