- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana lawmakers this summer could consider how to address increased gambling competition from neighboring states as revenue from riverboats continues to drop.

The money the state collects from casino taxes has dropped from a peak of nearly $876 million in 2009 to about $752 million in fiscal 2013, according to figures from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Indiana’s three casinos near Cincinnati have seen big declines since a downtown casino opened in the Ohio city last year.

In recent years, Indiana’s casino industry has pleaded with state legislators for economic protection from the increasing state competition. But many lawmakers have resisted, saying the casinos should try to survive on their own.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1fV17fK ) that lawmakers realize the state is at a seminal moment with its casinos and that he supports assigning the issue to a summer study committee.

“The whole issue seems to revolve around the expansion of gaming and what do you interpret that to mean,” Long said.

Final decisions on the study committees will be assigned later this month. Long said the committee would explore the declining revenue from riverboats, which is down 7 percent, or $20 million, from projections for the fiscal year.

Indiana’s casinos have pumped billions of dollars into state coffers since they first opened in the mid-1990s. The money has also bolstered local budgets, paying for road improvements, capital projects, salaries and other needs.

Leaders in places like Evansville say reductions in casino revenue could force them to delay buying new police cars or paving streets.

“From our end, the city would just like to see the revenue consistent,” said Evansville City Controller Russell Lloyd. “We don’t want to see anything that would make revenue go down.”

State Sen. Vanetta Becker, R-Evansville, said she supports a summer study of the gambling challenges.

“It is a fact of life that communities and the state rely on that revenue to fund a portion of government services, so I think we ought to look at it to see if there are ways to help the industry and help communities and help the state and decide whether or not doing so is a good public policy,” Becker said.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com