Indiana Senate to Consider Moving Two Casinos Ashore in Tuesday Vote

Posted on: February 22, 2019, 04:30h. 

Last updated on: February 22, 2019, 04:30h.

A proposal to move one of two recently sold casinos in Gary, Indiana from Lake Michigan to a nearby land-based location and reassign the license for the other one to somewhere in Vigo County — likely Terre Haute — is cruising along towards a vote by the Indiana Senate on Tuesday.

The rather stark surroundings of the currently lake-docked Majestic Star casinos would better serve as a hub for cargo and freight carriers to Indiana, local politicians insist. They are pushing to move the two gaming venues to land. (Image: Galina & Alexei Ovtcharov)

The senators also will consider various floor amendments to Senate Bill 552 on Monday, to relocate the two Majestic Star casinos that now sit aboard boats docked in Buffington Harbor. The bill was approved on Thursday by the Senate’s Appropriations Committee with some changes.

Getting Competitive

To address the bill’s alterations, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Mark Messmer (R-48) plans to introduce an amendment to allow for competitive bids from other casino operators, rather than just granting the Terre Haute license to Spectacle Entertainment.

Spectacle Entertainment is buying the two riverboat casinos for an undisclosed sum from Majestic Holdco.

With competition, the state “would get a better proposal” regarding how much money the operator invests and how big a casino would be built, Messmer told on Friday. “The likely changes in casino operations “will help overall gaming revenue to the state,” he added.

Messmer wants to see other communities where there are casinos and racinos get some money from the Terre Haute casino — including the Evansville and French Lick casinos and the Shelbyville and Anderson racinos — no matter which company operates it.

The casino remaining in Gary is likely to be relocated to near the Borman Expressway, perhaps next to a freeway exit.

In a statement released to on Thursday, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Council President Ronald Brewer said they are “pleased” with the progress of the Senate Bill 552, and specifically praised an amendment that gives “discretion” to Gary on whether other casinos will get compensated for any losses from the casinos’ move.

Under the current bill, Gary will provide money at its discretion to Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City. Each of these communities has casinos, which could lose revenue with the relocation.

After Senate approval, the bill will be taken up by the House of Representatives, and if backed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, licenses later would be issued by the Indiana Gaming Commission. The current bill would also pave the way for in-state sports betting at the 10 licensed casinos in Indiana.

The combined two riverboats now have six floors of gambling, with approximately 1,700 slot machines, 70 table games, plus poker and baccarat rooms.

Complex Changes for Gary

Once the riverboats are relocated, there will be room for a regional transportation and shipping complex at Buffington Harbor. The proposal is seen as being lucrative for the city, according to a study from Vickerman and Associates, a consulting firm, which specializes in port and intermodal planning and design.

On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee also approved Senate Bill 66, which moves forward the transportation and shipping facility.