Council continues discussions on riverboat funds


The Indiana General Assembly is still considering legislation that would redirect riverboat casino revenues from counties such as Switzerland County and instead keep those funds in state accounts; and at Saturday’s meeting of the Switzerland County Council, a crowd of about 20 people came to discuss a plan of action.

In spite of numerous bills and amendments all aimed at taking more and more funds, council president Mike Jones said that he has good feelings about beating the bills before the legislature.

“I spoke to Bob Bischoff on Tuesday, and we will still think that we will beat this thing in the Senate,” Mike Jones said. “We still feel very positive about this. Hopefully, right will prevail.”

Mike Jones said that everyone is keeping an eye on Friday, April 29th. That’s the last scheduled day of the state legislature’s session for this year; and after that date, only the Governor has the power to call the legislature back to Indianapolis for a special session.

If the state gets to April 29th without passing a bill to take riverboat funds, then Switzerland County and others with riverboats are safe — at least for another year.

“Until the gavel goes down on that last day, you never know what’s going to happen,” Mike Jones said.

He also said that Republican leaders have been experiencing political backlash from voters in the southern part of the state who are against these amendments, and that the stance may be softening a bit.

Earlier this week, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said that he would prefer getting a tax plan from the legislature that doesn’t take money from riverboat counties — but he stopped short of saying that he’d veto a budget that contained such funding.

“There are multiple ways now to achieve what has not been achieved in our state in a decade, in many years, and that’s an honestly balanced budget,” the Governor said in an interview with The Louisville Courier-Journal, “I don’t prefer the redistribution (of casino money).”

State Senator Jim Lewis, who represents Switzerland County, voted against House Bill 1120 earlier this week, along with all of his fellow Democrats and six Republicans, but it still passed by a 27-22 margin.

“I’m still pretty hopeful that part will be taken out of the bill,” Senator Lewis said about the amendment to capture riverboat revenues. “Reading between the lines, it has a real, real good possibility of not being in the final budget.”

Still, Switzerland County lawmakers are hoping that residents keep up the pressure on the Governor’s office.

“I believe that all of the calls and emails going to the Governor’s office from Switzerland County residents are making a difference,” Mike Jones said. “People need to make sure that Indianapolis knows how we feel down here.”


At Saturday’s council meeting, elected officials and members of the audience discussed various options, including the county’s role in Belterra Casino Resort and Spa’s application for the renewal of its state license — expires this year. That could be the leverage that Switzerland County needs to stop the state’s raid on its treasury.

Now might not be the best time to play that card, though, Mike Jones told the crowd Saturday morning.

“We’ve been saving our powder a little bit,” Jones said when a man in the audience asked, “Why not say we don’t want it if money’s not there?”

Later in the meeting, Jones said, “Right now it’s the legislative process. We’re talking about the other things (options). … We know what card we hold.”

He said county officials “have been spending a lot of time on it.”

For now, county attorney Jon Bond said, the focus needs to be on getting the General Assembly to drop the idea of taking money from counties, and time is short because the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month.

He urged the public to call, e-mail and write to Governor Mitch Daniels as soon as possible.

“The governor has the power to stop this all by himself,” said Jon Bond, who is working with an Indianapolis lobbying firm of Lewis-Kappes. Later in the meeting he said, “We’ve got to keep the heat on the governor.”

The governor’s office can be reached by telephone, 317-232-4567; by mail, Office of the Governor, Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797; or by e-mail on a form at

Although the public is unlikely to be able to talk to Daniels, his aides will log calls, e-mails and letters and share that information with him, Bond said.

“They definitely are not going to hear us if we don’t make any noise,” Bond said.


Note: Madison Courier reporter Peggy Vlerebome contributed to this story.