The Crusader Newspaper Group

Bill that allows Gary casino to move passes House

Crusader Staff Report

A gaming bill that would allow a Gary casino to relocate for a $50 million fee on Monday, April 15, passed the Indiana House.

The Indiana House voted 78-15 to approve Senate Bill 552, which would also legalize sports wagering. But to Gary, the most important part of the bill is the portion that allows Gary’s Majestic Star casinos to relocate from Lake Michigan to a land-based location. Spectacle Entertainment has proposed opening a $300 million casino along the Interstate 80/94 corridor in Gary and closing the existing casino boats in Buffington Harbor.

In February, the Indiana Senate passed the gaming bill by a 38-11 vote, but after several changes to the bill in the House, the bill will return to the Senate for final approval.

The bill would require Spectacle Entertainment to pay a $50 million fee if it chooses to move forward with plans to close the existing riverboats and instead open a casino on a land location in the city. Spectacle Entertainment recently acquired Gary casinos, Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II. Spectacle must pay an additional $50 million if the company sells the casino within five years.

According to an amendment to the bill that lawmakers approved on April 15, the other license currently held by Spectacle would be surrendered to the state, which would terminate it. A new license would be created to establish a casino in Vigo County, where Terre Haute is located.

Under the proposed law, Spectacle would be allowed to bid on the Terre Haute license, regardless of whether it decides to pursue Gary. The company has proposed opening a $100 million to $150 million casino in Terre Haute.

An amendment added to the bill on April 15 would require any meeting between the governor and casino company officials be held in public with 48-hour notice. That move was in response to an Indianapolis Star report that said casino owner Rod Ratcliff flew Governor Eric Holcomb to meetings in Colorado in July, giving Ratcliff hours of exclusive access to the governor.

Despite concerns from advocates for sports wagering, the bill would not allow mobile sports betting. Lawmakers believe that people do a large portion of illegal sports betting on smartphones.

Majestic Star LLC has held one of the Gary gaming licenses since the state first allowed the boats to open in the 1990s. The Majestic Star company later bought the second license from Donald Trump, which first opened a neighboring Gary casino operation. Earlier his month, Spectacle took over operations at the two Gary casinos.

Spectacle reportedly said that it will move ahead with its plans to reinvest in Majestic Star’s casinos regardless of the outcome of the proposed bills.

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