Friend Asks Pence To Consider Land Based Casinos

Evansville City Council President John Friend asks Gov. Mike Pence to consider moving Indiana riverboats to dry land.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence swings through Southwestern Indiana Wednesday, meeting with Hoosiers at Evansville's Central Library. The governor hosted a town hall style meeting where he answered questions on topics ranging from same-sex marriage to economic development and infrastructure.

During the meeting, Evansville City Council President John Friend, D-Ward 5, asked Pence to consider allowing land based casinos in Indiana, noting that the city relies on Tropicana gaming revenue to fund capital improvements. In recent years, Friend says, that revenue source has started to dwindle. It brought in around $15 million in 2011, $13 million in 2012, and $12 million in 2013. He says the trend is on-course for 2014.

"You see it trending downward. And why? Well simple. The gamer has a lot more selections of where he or she wishes to go," said Friend.

The Evansville City Council recently passed a resolution encouraging state legislators to consider allowing land based casinos in the Hoosier state, an idea Pence has previously rejected.

"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," said Pence. "Focusing on how we can maintain the status quo in Indiana will continue to be the focus of our administration."

Council members say Tropicana is in need of improvements, but the casino is resistant about sinking any more money into the riverboat. Friend suggests that Tropicana would be willing to make a major multi-million dollar investment to move the operation onto dry land.

"Maybe the governor will see the light about that investment, the jobs it would bring, and not just the direct jobs but the indirect jobs," said Friend. "If we lose that boat it would be a sad day to be on council cause you would have to be making some serious, serious decisions."

Pence asked Friend to write him a letter about what he's proposing. Friend says he is scheduled to meet with Tropicana management next Tuesday to talk about some of these issues.
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