Bill for land based casino in Gary introduced

January 17, 2013

(Rich Whitehead via Flickr)
Majestic Star I and II (pictured) are based in Gary, Indiana. A bill in the Indiana Senate would allow the license for one of the boats to be used to build a land-based casino several miles south of Buffington Harbor.

A Northwest Indiana lawmaker is backing a proposal to allow a land-based casino in Gary.

State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) introduced legislation this week to approve the use of one of the two Gary casino boats licenses for a land-based casino
operation. This is the latest attempt by the city of Gary to get a land-based casino.
City leaders believe it would generate more revenue for the city and better position Gary against any casino operation that may be approved for Chicago or a southern suburb.

A similar bill introduced last year by longtime State Senator Earline Rodgers, a Democrat from Gary, failed.

Majestic Star Casino currently operates two gambling boats in Buffington Harbor off Lake Michigan in Gary.

But revenue for the five casino boats off Lake Michigan continues to decline. In 2012, the Indiana Gaming Commission reported that the five boats generated about $1.1 billion, a $24 million decline from 2011.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says a land-based casino would not only be good for Gary but for all of Northwest Indiana.

“Many Northwest Indiana residents acknowledge that the success of the city of Gary and the entire region are inextricably linked,” Freeman-Wilson said in a prepared statement released Thursday. “It is clear that regional prosperity requires a vibrant and flourishing Gary. As evidenced by Senate Bill 585, Indiana state leadership understands this and is open to assisting the city with a path forward to achieve this end. It is important to understand that we are actively engaged with our local legislators who are leaders in the General Assembly, other members of the Northwest Indiana delegation and the entire General Assembly to put our best economic development foot forward for the benefit of the city and citizens of Gary, Northwest Indiana, and the entire state.”

If approved, the area most touted for a land-based casino in Gary would be off Interstate 89/94 between Grant Street and Broadway, one of the busiest highway corridors in the country.

But while Gary has the support of some in the Statehouse, not everyone in Northwest  Indiana supports a land-based casino for Gary, not even its next door neighbor to the west, the City of Hammond, is in favor of it.

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is opposed to such a plan because it may hurt revenues at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.

McDermott has said that he would support a land-based casino in Gary if Hammond is allowed to have a land-based one too.

It is unclear if the bill will get a hearing or if new Indiana Gov. Mike Pence would support a land-based casino in Northwest Indiana. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels had said he would have considered such a plan to keep Northwest Indiana casinos competitive, but it never materialized.