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July 31, 2014

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Indiana moving toward 24-hour riverboat casinos

INDIANAPOLIS -- The state's 10 riverboat casinos could get approval on Friday for offering around-the-clock gambling.

The Indiana Gaming Commission also will consider staff ideas for a program that would allow problem gamblers to ban themselves from casinos.

All 10 casinos have asked the commission for permission to remain open 24 hours, at least during some days of the week, commission spokeswoman Jennifer Arnold said Monday. She said agency staff members have reviewed plans submitted by the casinos and expect to recommend their approval.

The new two-year state budget includes a provision that allows casinos to stay open 24 hours. Lawmakers hoped that would generate an additional $10 million a year in gambling tax revenue for the state.

The Gaming Commission currently restricts casinos to 21 hours of operations, and many are open that long. Others close earlier during the week.

Seven casinos have submitted proposals for staying open 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Three of them -- Blue Chip in Michigan City, Casino Aztar in Evansville and Grand Victoria in Rising Sun -- are seeking approval for 24-hour schedules on weekends only, at least initially, Arnold said.

The commission also will consider staff members' ideas for implementing a program that would allow those addicted to gambling to ban themselves from all 10 casinos.

A state law enacted by the General Assembly this past spring requires the commission to write rules for such a program, but it left most of the details to the agency. At least five states with casinos have established self-eviction programs.

Some casinos in Indiana have rules allowing customers to ban themselves, but there is no statewide system.

Agency staff members will seek commission input on some initial recommendations, but it could take several months to promulgate the rules, Arnold said.

One likely recommendation is that people who want to put themselves on an exclusion list do so at one of the casinos or at commission headquarters in Indianapolis, Arnold said. Illinois allows sign-ups at some gambling counseling locations.

"We think it's important that these people sign up in the presence of a commission agent or an employee so they fully understand the program," Arnold said.

Also on Friday, the commission will consider some ground rules -- including some ethical guidelines -- for the possible establishment of a casino in southern Indiana's Orange County.

Although the General Assembly enacted a law allowing a casino there, voters must first approve one in a countywide referendum. That vote could occur during the November mayoral elections.

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