Indianapolis Motor Speedway improvement plan stalling in Indiana House
Spending tax money on improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has met some resistance from people across Indiana as well as from lawmakers.
The money would be spent on lights for night racing as well as other improvements. There's a new debate on where that money should come from.
Horsepower has always been the backbone of racing in Indiana, be it on dirt or on the bricks.
But an idea at the Statehouse to take revenue from the state's two racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville to make a loan to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other motorsport businesses is not getting a winning reception.
John Keeler represents Centaur Gaming, which owns the state's two racinos. He testified before the House Ways and Means Committee about the financing proposal on Monday.
"We love the Speedway. We love dirt racing. We love skateboarding but there is no reason the racinos should be required to subsidize the motor speedway, no more than agriculture or medical profession or even a severence tax on coal. There is no nexus between horse racing and the racino business and motorsports," Keeler argued.
There was some speculation this unlikely alliance was formed to kill the bill by playing the racinos against racing. Jeff Belskus is President and CEO of Hulman and Company.
He listened to the debate in committee but did not testify. He did respond to the idea of playing the two sides against each other after the hearing had concluded.
"I don't think we are pitted against them and we don't want to be pitted against them," Belskus said.
For Belskus it is a simple matter of a racing facility that is over a hundred years old that needs an infusion of money that he believes could be transformative for the facility.
The bill easily cleared the Senate but has sputtered in the House. Governor Mike Pence even went so far as to say the track did not have enough skin in the game, a point Belskus disputes.
"As it is structured today, we will be putting in two million dollars a year into this along with the state's $5 million loan and that is in addition to the things we are doing on our own," said Belskus.
But there is one issue that without question is always brought up. How will this money be repaid if the track is sold? Belskus says that is not an issue.
"There are no conversations about selling the Speedway. It is not for sale. I don't know where that is coming from. I feel like I spent the last year saying that but it is not for sale," he said.
The bill has now passed out of two committees in the House and is now headed to the full House for second reading.