06/12/2002 11:00PM

Indiana slots may be derailed

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Language allowing gambling machines at Indiana racetracks is expected to be stripped from a state budget bill while in a Senate committee, state legislators said on Thursday.

The language would have allowed the gambling machines at Hoosier Park and a yet-to-be-built track in northeastern Indiana. The full House passed the budget bill on June 3 and sent it to the Senate Finance Committee, which scheduled two days of hearings on the bill for Thursday and Friday.

Larry Borst, the Senate finance committee chairman, said the committee planned to remove the language so that the state did not become dependent on money from expanded gambling. Legislators are hoping to close a $1 billion budget gap with the bill.

The full Senate is expected to consider the budget bill on June 18. Legislators would then have four days to work out a compromise with the House version of the bill.

"It's way too early to speculate on what will happen" if the bills go to conference committee, said Rick Moore, the general manager of Hoosier Park.

Gambling machines would be a boon to Hoosier Park's majority owner, Churchill Downs Inc. The company also attempted to get gambling machines at its two Kentucky tracks this year, but the Kentucky legislature failed to address the issue.