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Lawmakers shift the way Indiana funds gaming enforcement, add more legislative oversight

The southwest exterior of the Indiana Statehouse, at night.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
The State Budget Committee, made up primarily of lawmakers, must now give approval before the executive branch can shift money to the Indiana Gaming Commission if it needs more funding for gaming enforcement.

A new law changes the way Indiana gaming enforcement is funded. And Democrats say the shift will “choke off” and “defund” the state gaming police.

Previously, the Indiana Gaming Commission could use fines and penalties it collected from casinos to fund its enforcement actions.

Not anymore. Rather, lawmakers sent more state budget dollars to the agency. But they also blocked the executive branch from shifting money to the gaming commission if it needs more funding for enforcement. Instead, the commission must get approval from legislators on the State Budget Committee.

Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) said that’s asking for trouble and undermining public confidence in gaming enforcement.

“And for what?” Pierce said. “What has gone wrong? What problem is being solved? What public policy is being advanced? Apparently, we just think the Gaming Commission has been too hard on the gaming operators. They’ve been too mean to them.”

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Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) said the change in SEA 256 is simply providing a little more oversight when gaming enforcement requires more money.

“Wouldn’t we, as the policymakers that make the rules for the casino industry and the gaming industry, wouldn’t we want to know that?” Smaltz said.

READ MORE: Ex-state lawmaker to plead guilty to federal corruption charges

The funding change comes after three former Republican state lawmakers have pleaded guilty to federal crimes in recent years related to a casino operator barred from the industry by the Gaming Commission.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.