INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A bill was introduced Monday in the Indiana Senate that would legalize video gaming terminals, but it falls short of a measure the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association would like to see.
The ILBA is pushing for legislation that would allow electronic games, such as video poker and blackjack, inside of Hooser bars and restaurants.
State Senator Susan Glick’s (R-Indianapolis) bill authorizes wagering on VGTs in veterans’ service organizations, like the VFW and American Legion taverns.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, ILBA President Brad Klopfenstein said the gaming machines would generate extra cash for businesses that have been hit especially hard because of the pandemic.
“But basically, especially now, where bars and restaurants have been hurt as hard or harder than any other industry in the state of Indiana. And they need help. I mean, we are at the cusp of your local neighborhood bar going away, unless there’s some assistance, and a lot of that’s COVID related,” said Klopfenstein.
Klopfenstein says the machines would generate anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year. The revenue would be split three ways, the bar owner, the vending machine companies, and the county where the machines operate.
He says the gaming terminals would help generate revenue for counties that do not have a casino.
“If you look at a county like Hamilton County, they get very little money from the state casinos,” said Klopfenstein. “This is an opportunity for some of these counties that are non-casino counties to possibly help their budgets a little.”
Klopfenstein, who is also president of the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, says the Indiana legislature has been “very friendly” to casinos and out-of-state gaming interests over the past several years, including the legalization of sports betting in 2019.
“And all we’re asking for is let us have a couple of machines in our establishment so that we can stay in business,” said Klopfenstein.
Gaming analysts at PlayIndiana.com say legislation authorizing VGTs might have to take a backseat to legislation that would allow online casinos in the Hoosier state.
State Senator Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) has mentioned the possibility of introducing legislation during the current session.
PlayIndiana.com says since online casinos are very profitable, they would likely take priority over VGTs if it comes down to one or the other.
Klopfenstein says the ILBA proposal would earmark VGT revenue for the county sheriff’s department, which could use the money for jail improvements, jail staffing, and to help fulfill pension obligations.
“State and county budgets are probably going to come in less than they were. And there’s a lot of people out there going to the legislature with their hands out,” said Klopfenstein.”There are very few people like us that are coming in and saying, ‘Hey, we have money that’s on the table if you want it.'”
Klopfenstein says he would expect the terminals to be tied into a central location, which would allow for oversight by the Indiana Gaming Commission.
Illinois started operating licensed VGTs in October 2012. The state allows a wide range of establishments to operate the gaming machines, including bars, restaurants, gas stations, truck stops, and veterans organizations.