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Indiana Gov. Pence keeps up opposition to land-based casinos despite worries from Evansville

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EVANSVILLE, Indiana — Gov. Mike Pence remains opposed to allowing more land-based casinos in Indiana despite a push from Evansville officials who are worried about declining revenue from the city's riverboat.

Evansville City Council President John Friend told Pence during a public meeting Wednesday that without a change in state law, revenues from Tropicana Evansville would continue to fall and the city could lose out on the potential construction of a new casino.

"What this would do is, it would expand economic development," Friend said. "Tropicana's already indicated if this happens, they're going to put in, they told me, a $100 million facility here ... I mean, it would be a boon for this community."

Officials expect a $600,000 decline in tax revenues during the coming year from Tropicana for the city's capital projects fund, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (http://bit.ly/1BFPvET ).

For several years, many of Indiana's 10 casinos along the Ohio River and Lake Michigan have sought permission for in-land sites amid greater competition from surrounding states, but haven't been successful in the General Assembly. Casinos in French Lick, Anderson and Shelbyville already are non-water locations.

Friend, a Democrat, told the Republican governor that many in the GOP-dominated Legislature "would be for this, but they're looking for leadership coming from your office."

Pence said he prefers to seek "prudent and responsible ways that we could maintain the status quo" with casinos.

Total state tax revenues from Indiana's casinos fell by $99 million, or about 13 percent, during the fiscal year ending June 30, according to Indiana Gaming Commission reports.

Pence didn't support proposals during the 2013 legislative session to allow more in-land casinos and said his position hasn't changed.

"I have no interest in expanding gaming in Indiana, but also it's not my aim to reduce the role of gaming in our state budget or in our state's overall economy," he said.

Jason Gregorec, vice president and general manager at Tropicana Evansville, said an off-river facility would have better features and be more convenient for visitors.

"It would be a substantial investment into the community," he said.


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

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