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Gary Casino Supporters State their Case Before Legislators Regarding Moving Lake Michigan License

Supporters of moving one of Gary's 2 casino facilities on Lake Michigan to a busier location made their case to a group of legislators on September 14th, 2009, stating that it would improve revenues and give more tax money for the city and state.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay stated that an interim legislative study committee on gaming issues that they are not asking for any favor. He added that what they are asking is a sensible decision. Gary's 2 riverboat casinos, the Majestic Star I and II, now sit next to each other on the harbor of Lake Michigan.

Their earnings have declined in recent years because of upgrades at other Lake Michigan casino facilities in Indiana and a tribal casino facility in Lower Michigan. The casinos' owner, Don Barden-together with Gary legislators and state officials-want to move one of the casino licenses and construct a new facility on a location in the city near the intersection of Interstate 65 and a pair of freeways.

Barden also wants the chance to sell the other casino license to a group that would build a casino facility in the northeastern portion of Indiana near Fort Wayne. Barden said that by moving both casino facilities, it would generate $40 million to $50 million in new tax revenue for Indiana and help the casino gaming industry in the state to survive gaming expansions in the state of Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

Indiana's thirteen casino facilities, including one at each at pari-mutuel horse racing tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville, produced about $900 million in taxes during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. State Representative Charlie Brown, (Democratic-Gary), said that the casino would produce more revenue, with some of it being used to construct a teaching hospital in Gary.

The casino proposal was floated during the last regular session of the Assembly but was set aside because legislative officials felt it would make talks on passing a new state budget even more complicated.

Some supporters said that moving one of Gary's casino licenses to a land-based location in the city would also encourage economic development. But Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), said he doubted that economic development would occur and even Don Barden said that any new development would have to be directly connected with the casino facility. Ameristar, which owns a Lake County casino in East Chicago, testified against a land-based casino facility in Gary.

Ameristar gaming lobbyist Troy Stremming stated that the group had made vital investments based on the casino facilities being where they are now. Former Republican state Senator Robert Meeks of LaGrange stated that he wanted legislators to permit residents of Steuben County in far northeastern Indiana to vote in a 2010 vote on whether they would accept a casino facility. He said that northeastern Indiana was the only large land area of the state without a casino facility.

But the general manager of gaming for Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, Jim Brown, said that it paid a $250 million licensing cost for casino rights knowing that many of its players would come from the Fort Wayne area.

Brown added that about twenty percent of its customers are from the Fort Wayne area. He said that about twenty percent of its customers are from the area and Hoosier Park would take a serious hit if a casino facility was permitted there.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has proposed that legislators permit residents to vote on whether to accept gaming. Fort Wayne City Council member Mitch Harper told legislators that there was no general consensus on having such a referendum and the city council, county council and county commissioners had taken no position on recommend a referendum on gaming.


10/04/2009 22:35 PM
Ann Pettersson