No Bar Rescue: Indiana Bill Would Permit VGTs Inside Veterans’ Clubs, But Not Restaurants

Posted on: January 11, 2021, 04:03h.

Last updated on: January 11, 2021, 04:16h.

An Indiana lawmaker has introduced legislation that would allow video gaming terminals (VGTs) to be placed inside veterans’ clubs, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The American Legion is headquartered in the Indiana state capital of Indianapolis.

Indiana video gaming terminal VGT
Indiana video gaming terminal VGT
Video gaming terminals, like this one seen in Missouri, are included in new legislation in Indiana. But in the Hoosier State, the bill would only permit the gaming devices at veterans’ organizations. (Image: State Journal Register)

State Sen. Sue Glick (R-Indianapolis) wants to allow the clubs to offer the bingo-based gaming machines to help the organizations recoup lost revenue incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 267 seeks to amend the type of gambling authorized at “congressionally chartered veterans’ service organizations.”

Each organization would need to pay a $150 application fee to house the VGTs. The permit would need renewed every three years. Manufacturers and distributors would pay the state a $25,000 upfront fee, renewable annually for $10,000.

The state would place no tax on the gaming revenue kept by the veterans’ groups. Instead, they would split the profits with their manufacturer and distributor.

The maximum wager on the VGTs would be capped at $2 per wager, and the maximum amount a patron can win on one spin is $599. Each organization would be permitted no more than five terminals.

Restaurants Plead with State

Video gaming terminals look and operate similarly to traditional slot machines, but the outcomes of the reels are based on bingo. VGTs were developed for Native American casinos, which can operate Class II gaming — including bingo — on their sovereign lands under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

But like the American Legions and VFWs, bars and restaurants across the Hoosier State are struggling to stay in business. The Indiana Licensed Beverage Association (ILBA) is calling on state lawmakers to allow their members to place VGTs in their businesses, too.

The restaurant association says Indiana should follow Illinois in allowing gaming machines to help keep the neighborhood bar in business. Illinois legalized VGTs in 2012.

Bars and restaurants have been hurt as hard or harder than any other industry in the state of Indiana,” ILBA President Brad Klopfenstein recently told Inside Indiana Business. “They need help.”

Klopfenstein says VGTs could generate up to $100,000 per year for certain restaurant establishments. The ILBA is only seeking VGT approval for counties where there are no land-based casinos.

“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,” Klopfenstein added. “There are very few people like us that are coming in and saying, ‘Hey, we have money that’s on the table.’”

Indiana Gaming Industry

Indiana is home to 15 commercial and tribal casinos, which includes four land-based gaming properties.

The state legalized sports betting in the fall of 2019. Casinos, racinos, and off-track betting facilities are all eligible for sports betting licenses. Indiana is one of 13 states that allows oddsmakers to facilitate wagers online.

Sports betting is flourishing in Indiana. In December, oddsmakers broke the quarter of a billion dollars mark in handle for the first time in a single month. Mobile wagers accounted for 85 percent of the action.

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