Majestic Star Casino Relocation Fee Reduced to $20M, Indiana Gaming Legislation Advances

Posted on: April 22, 2019, 01:43h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2019, 01:43h.

The Majestic Star Casino riverboats on Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana, might be allowed to move ashore at a price that’s much reduced than previously suggested.

Majestic Star Indiana casinos
The Majestic Star casinos are ready to cruise off Lake Michigan. (Image: John Watkins/Northwest Indiana Times)

On Monday, state lawmakers approved reducing the relocation fee imposed on the casinos’ parent company Spectacle Entertainment to $20 million. That’s a deep discount compared to the recommended $100 million fee proposed by the House Public Policy Committee.

If the General Assembly signs off on the amended bill and Governor Eric Holcomb (R) signs the legislation into law, Spectacle would be clear to proceed with its plans to build a $300 million casino resort inland near the Frank Borman Expressway in Gary.

Spectacle Entertainment General Counsel John Keeler told the Northwest Indiana Times that the company “can live with” the $20 million fee. He added that the figure “is much more reasonable than it was.”

Along with the casino, Spectacle’s relocation plans for the Majestic Star include a 200-room hotel.

The Majestic Star’s second riverboat was originally known as the Trump Casino. The now-US president sold the property to Majestic Star Holdings in late 2005.

Gaming Shakeup

There were two competing pieces of legislation in the Indianapolis capital regarding Spectacle’s wishes to move its casino. Specifics in Senate Bill 552 are being merged into House Bill 1015 as the legislative process proceeds.

The current version of HB 1015 will allow the Majestic Star to move inland for $20 million. Spectacle will need to surrender its other casino license.

That second license could be put up for grabs in Vigo County located on the state’s western edge. The town of Terre Haute wants to bring gambling to the area. HB 1015 also sets a 9.5 percent tax rate on gaming revenues from sports betting.

Vigo County voters would first need to approve a ballot referendum to allow such a facility to become part of their community. That vote could occur during next month’s primary, or the November election.

State Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) drafted the original Senate version of the gaming bill. “I’m very happy that Terre Haute is still in it as it takes the next step in the process. That’s been the goal all along.”

Dirty Politics?

Several state lawmakers said they were more comfortable setting a $20 million relocation charge precedent for licensed casino transfers. But the opinion isn’t unanimous.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. believes Spectacle owner Rod Ratcliff played the state.

Rod Ratcliff played it like a master. All the steak dinners, all the airplane flights, all the convention center work, it all paid off for him,” McDermott opined. “The Legislature got bought out, the governor got bought out, the speaker of the House got bought out, everybody got a piece.”

“A $100 million transfer fee goes down to $20 million. Rod Ratcliff saved $80 million,” he added. “The whole thing is very shady. The whole thing is very corrupt.”

According to Indiana Campaign Finance records, Holcomb didn’t receive any individual contributions from Ratcliff during his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.