Crusader Staff Report
Gary’s Majestic Star would have to pay a $100 million fee if it moves to a land-based location next to the expressway.
The fee is part of a gaming bill that was amended by an Indiana legislative committee before it advanced in the General Assembly. The gaming bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Majestic Star Casino in the Buffington Harbor sits on Lake Michigan. But Gary’s leaders have expressed a desire to move the facility next to the expressway to boost its fortunes by making it easily accessible to tourists and drivers.
But on Wednesday, March 26, the Indiana House of Representative’s Public Policy Committee approved proposed gaming legislation that would allow Gary’s Majestic Star to move to a land-based location near the Borman Expressway. The committee amended the bill with fresh language that requires Majestic to pay a $100 million fee to the state should it move to the expressway. It must also surrender its second license to the open market.
Some lawmakers questioned the $100 million fee, one that would kill Gary’s plan of turning around the fortunes of Majestic Star and the Buffington Harbor. Gary officials viewed the gaming bill as a big boost to their plan to redevelop Buffington Harbor, where Majestic’s two boats are now docked. Gary is looking at a shipping facility at Buffington Harbor if the casinos are allowed to move.
“I just have a hard time understanding charging, in this case, Spectacle a $100 million fee to take that license to the highway,” said Representative Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. “To me, that’s a tough one to swallow.”
Eberhart said if the state had a private company saying it wanted to invest $300 million along the Borman, Indiana would normally get out its checkbook.
“It’s kind of ironic that instead we turn around and we’re asking for $100 million to make that investment,” Eberhart said.
Representative Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, said she didn’t get the reason for the $100 million fee, considering it is an address change.
“Even for a rich person, $100 million is kind of in the stratosphere,” Summers said.
In February, the Indiana Senate passed the gaming bill by a 38-11 vote.
That same month, the Indiana Gaming Commission approved the sale of the two Majestic Star casinos to Spectacle Entertainment, which last November announced it would acquire Majestic Star.
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 casino’s regardless of the outcome of the proposed bills.