By Aubrey Helms
Gov. Mike Pence is refusing to say publicly whether he will sign a controversial gambling bill if it hits his desk this session.
Talking to reporters Thursday morning, Pence said he has made his views clear to lawmakers who are working on the legislation. But the governor would not confirm House Speaker Brian Bosma’s comments that he opposes a provision that lets casinos at horse tracks have live dealers for table games.
“We’ll continue to express our sense of this as it goes forward,” Pence said. “We’ll watch the legislative process and the legislature will work its will, and if it gets to my desk, I’ll make a decision.”
Pence can veto a bill, which prevents it from becoming law. But the General Assembly can overrule his veto with a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. That’s the same majority vote needed to pass the bill initially.
Pence has been firm that he doesn’t want an expansion of gambling operations in the state. But he has not been clear about what he means by “expansion.”
The governor reiterated Thursday, “I don’t support an expansion of gaming but I’ve also made it clear and that I am open to common sense reforms and business practices that allow these businesses to remain competitive.”
House Bill 1540, authored by Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, underwent several changes before passing the House with provisions that would allow racinos to add live dealers to half of their table games, let riverboats move onto land and create a tax credit for existing casinos to expand their properties with infrastructure such as hotels.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said Pence is complicating the matter.
“He needs to decide if he’s going to be involved or not be involved,” Pelath said. “And if he is going to be involved he ought to be getting involved to help and not keep something from reaching his desk that he has some personal objections to.”
The bill passed the House 75-18 on Wednesday now heads to the Senate where President Pro Tem David Long has already said it will get a hearing. Long says the discussion will come down to what constitutes an expansion of gambling.
Aubrey Helms is the broadcast coordinator for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.