Friday, March 18, 2005 | 10:21 a.m.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Senate Republicans have discussed at least two gambling proposals that could reap hundreds of millions of dollars for the state, including legalizing and taxing video gambling machines now operating unlawfully in hundreds of bars, social clubs and truck stops.
Senate Republicans also are privately considering a proposal that would bring the state $75 million a year by taking it away from six of the state's seven counties with casinos, Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Meeks, R-LaGrange, confirmed Thursday. Consideration of that plan was first reported Wednesday by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.
Meanwhile Democratic Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington suggested Thursday that the Hoosier Lottery should consider offering keno. She said the game featuring computerized drawings could generate up to $50 million a year for the state's cash-strapped budget and be used to increase funding for public schools.
It was not clear whether any of those proposals could get beyond a discussion stage in the Senate, let alone pass that chamber, get through the House and be signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
But they were sure signs that many lawmakers are searching for additional money to erase the state's budget deficit and provide at least some spending increases for schools.
"I'm looking for revenue," Meeks said. "Under every rock."
Meeks said he could not provide details about the gambling proposals discussed privately among Republicans who control the Senate or when they would decide whether to pursue them. But the decisions would have to come soon, he said, since Senate Republicans are drafting their version of a two-year state budget and plan to complete it by March 31.
Gambling options for new revenue have been bandied about for weeks this legislative session, but none has gained ground.