A surge in attendance at Belterra Casino Resort & Spa boosted the May turnstile count at southeastern Indiana’s three casinos by 7 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.

The number of gamblers visiting Belterra in Switzerland County jumped to 184,164 in May, up 31 percent from 140,403 in April and 27 percent higher than the 145,351 it attracted in May 2003.

Belterra is about an hour’s drive from downtown Cincinnati, across from Warsaw, Ky. It’s the farthest of the three Indiana casinos that cater to the southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky markets.

Year-to-date through May, attendance at the three casinos was 13 percent ahead of the comparable period last year. Argosy Casino & Hotel in Lawrenceburg was up 11 percent to 1.49 million. Belterra was 16 percent higher at 655,473. Grand Victoria Casino & Resort by Hyatt in Rising Sun gained 14 percent to 628,584.

Belterra was the only one of the three casinos to post higher gambling winnings in May compared with April. The money it made from gambling tables and slot machines jumped 24 percent in May to more than $14 million on total wagers of $171 million.

For the first five months of the year, Belterra’s winnings were up 14 percent to $60 million on total wagers of $712 million.

Belterra officials could not be reached for comment.

Measure would legalize up to 3,000 machines

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Negotiators said Wednesday they struck an agreement “in principle” on legislation to legalize thousands of slot machines in Pennsylvania as a way to generate $1 billion to reduce property taxes.

The agreement comes after more than a year of discussions that previously produced a couple of near-deals. Lawmakers said the deal would be drafted into legislation in the coming days and presented to the Senate.

The deal dictates that up to 3,000 slot machines could be placed at each of up to 12 sites — up to eight could be at horse racing tracks, and up to five could be at off-track sites — and up to 500 machines at two resort sites, lawmakers said.

A gambling commission would award the gambling licenses, and winners would each have to pay $50 million for a license.

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