On February 6, 2019, the Senate Public Policy Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill (SB) 552. This bill is a gaming proposal, that would drastically change the laws surrounding casinos and sports wagering in the State of Indiana. Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ron Alting, wrapped up the committee by pronouncing the proposal as one of the biggest gaming bills in the history of the legislature.
State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary), one of the co-authors of the proposal, played a role in the creation and shaping aspects of SB 552 to ensure that Gary is able to maintain its casino license and that the cities of Hammond and East Chicago, which both contain casinos, would be protected with the addition of hold harmless language in the bill. Sen. Melton released the following comments upon the bill’s passage:
“This is a huge first step in a transformational project that would greatly impact Northwest Indiana as well as the entire state. SB 552 allows us to move the Majestic Star riverboat casinos out of Gary’s Buffington Harbor, inland, to turn that port into a multimodal transportation hub. The casino would be relocated to Interstate 80/94, one of the country’s busiest highways, with over 300,000 cars a day.
“Throughout the interim I worked with various stakeholders to craft a separate proposal to maximize the undeveloped assets Buffington Harbor offers through land, water and rail. The passage of SB 552 will make this life-changing proposal possible.
“SB 552 will provide a drastic increase in gaming revenue that would, in turn, provide additional revenue to the city to address its fiscal needs. Additionally, 400 new gaming jobs will be added to the casino’s existing 800 jobs, created by the larger and more optimally located casino. Moreover, many new construction jobs will be made available through the development of these projects. Next, I will work to create a workforce development strategy to ensure that Gary residents and those that live in the surrounding area have access to these construction jobs.
“I am proud of this bipartisan proposal that will reap great benefits for the State of Indiana. I want to thank Senator Mark Messmer for authoring this legislation and working with me to ensure that this bill is in the best interest of the entire state, and Senator Jon Ford for his work co-authoring this proposal. Finally, I’d like to thank Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, former Senator Rogers, Gary City Councilman Ron Brewer, and Executive Director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce Chuck Hughes for their leadership and support to get this proposal through committee today.”
SB 552 has been reassigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. As a co-author, Sen. Melton will be afforded the opportunity to further strengthen and maximize the opportunities that exist for Northwest Indiana through this proposal.