The Crusader Newspaper Group

Gary approves final plans for $400M Hard Rock Casino

Crusader Staff Report

Spectacle Entertainment’s plans to build a $400 million Hard Rock Casino in Gary was unanimously approved by the City Council at a special meeting on Tuesday, August 27.

By a 9-0 vote, the council approved a deal that would allow Spectacle to move the Majestic Star casino near Interstate 80-94 and Burr Street, where it would be transformed into a 30-acre Hard Rock Casino entertainment complex that will include a 200-room hotel and one of the company’s signature cafés.

The new casino would create 650 new jobs and would feature 2,764 gaming positions, compared to 1,683 now at its two Majestic Star boats. Spectacle is paying the state $20 million to relocate the casino on land.

Spectacle wants to begin construction immediately to meet its goal of opening the Hard Rock Casino by the end of 2020.

At its meeting Tuesday, the City Council also agreed to a deal that would require Spectacle to give the city 3 percent of the casino’s adjusted gross receipts and those revenues should not fall below a minimum $6.15 million. John Keeler, vice president and general counsel for Spectacle, said in one news report that revenue that’s higher than $6.15 million will be placed in a community development fund for charitable purposes.

The plan now goes before the Indiana Gaming Commission, which held a meeting on the plan on Wednesday, August 28, but no details were available by Crusader press time.

Council members accused Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of not providing a copy of the agreement to them in time for the meeting. Freeman-Wilson was reportedly in Indianapolis on Tuesday attending another meeting.

Chief of Staff Dayna Bennet, according to one news report, said talks between the city and Spectacle Entertainment continued to about 4 p.m., making it difficult to rework a final copy that would have been provided to each of the nine council members.

City leaders initially called for Spectacle to give Gary a $5 million loan upfront, but Spectacle’s owners hinted that may be a challenge. Spectacle’s owners said if the company can secure a loan, they can provide Gary with the loan, which would be repaid through casino revenue.

In addition to the 3 percent from casino revenue, Spectacle said it would pay an additional 3 percent of the revenue from sports betting from mobile bets.

Spectacle is also seeking a state license to open a casino in Terre Haute. The company hopes residents in Terre Haute, will pass a casino referendum on November 5. If voters approve, the state will take bids for the license. If Spectacle is given the opportunity to operate a casino in Terre Haute, it will provide Gary with 5 percent of adjusted gross receipts from that casino for 10 years.

If it wins the license to open a casino in Terre Haute, Keeler said Spectacle would honor previous 2018 LDA language and provide Gary with 0.5 percent of the adjusted gross receipts of the Terre Haute casino for 10 years.

Spectacle promised to give their “best effort” to retain 40 percent minority vendors, 10 percent women and 5 percent veterans.

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