Northwest Indiana casinos eyeing Illinois

June 1, 2011

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An Illinois Senate committee has approved a plan to expand gambling in the state.

The proposal,  which would include a land base casino in Chicago, now goes to the full Senate. And it’s being watch very closely by the gaming industry in Northwest Indiana. Five casinos dot the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northwest Indiana, with the closest being 20 minutes from the Loop in Hammond.

Horseshoe Casino’s spent millions in upgrading its property in recent years, as have the others in East Chicago, Gary and Michigan City.

Ed Feigenbaum monitors Indiana’s gambling industry for Indiana Gaming Insight.

He says a casino in Chicago would be aimed at tourists already in the city. 

“It’s not all the clear that a casino in Chicago alone would be a detriment to the Indiana gaming industry in Northwest Indiana, although the most severe threat would be a south suburban Chicago casino,” Feigenbaum said.

Feigenbaum says the Midwest could be nearing a saturation point for gaming.

“The Northwest Indiana casinos have long understood that there could be a threat from the Chicago area. At the same time, when you look at what’s going on in the Chicagoland area market, some type of expansion is not a given. Just because you add another one, two or three casinos does not mean, particularly in an economy that we’re seeing, that they will come,” Feigenbaum said. “You’re hearing from a lot of the existing casinos of having to deal with additional competition.”

He says a Chicago casino may also limit future investment by existing Illinois and Indiana establishments.

He specifically pointed to a new casino being built in northwest suburban Des Plaines.

“They made a significant investment and they did that thinking the ground rules would not change,” Feigenbaum said. “Expansion like this would also cause other existing companies to question any significant capital expenditures to their existing properties.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.