Mayors: Casino Bill is an Economic Development Issue

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Mayors Duke Bennett and Karen Freeman-Wilson spoke to reports Thursday at the Statehouse. Mayors Duke Bennett and Karen Freeman-Wilson spoke to reports Thursday at the Statehouse.
INDIANAPOLIS -

The mayors of Gary and Terre Haute are asking lawmakers to remember the economic development benefits of the gambling bill currently being considered at the Statehouse. Senate Bill 552 would allow one of the Majestic Star riverboat casinos in Gary to move inland to a new downtown location and authorize a new casino in Terre Haute. 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett held a press conference Thursday at the Statehouse and said the new casinos would create a major economic development benefit not just for their respective regions, but the entire state. They say the proposed casinos would create an estimated $75 million in new revenue for the state.

"We’re trying to get everybody to stop and just pause for a minute and think about the most important part of this bill. From our perspective, it is this economic development side. We thank the legislators who have helped us get it to this point so far, and we feel really good about that, but we know there is still a lot of work to be done, and we want to be clear about reminding everyone how important this economic development part is," said Bennett. "It’s not only putting those people to work and the economic impact in building this casino, but it’s also the long-term benefits to the community from the revenue that’s going to come in to help us improve the quality of life for our residents."

The Terre Haute casino would involve a projected $150 million investment the city says would create up to 400 jobs, in addition to 500 construction jobs. Freeman-Wilson adds a new $300 million casino in Gary would be an economic driver itself, but adds the creation of an intermodal hub at Buffington Harbor where the Majestic Star casinos are currently located would have an even greater impact.

"It doesn’t just create economic opportunity for the city of Gary, but it creates it for all of Northwest Indiana, and we know that given the fact that we have this opportunity that it will be not just to benefit the northern part of the state but to all of Indiana," said Freeman-Wilson. "This bill provides increased revenue opportunity, through the casino development in Terre Haute and Gary, for the state of Indiana."

The bill has undergone many changes in the Senate and House, but passed through both chambers. It is now being considered by a conference committee and our partners at WIBC in Indianapolis report many differences still need to be ironed out, including whether to charge the Majestic Star's owners a fee to relocate one of its licenses to Terre Haute and how to select a casino operator for the Terre Haute location.

The bill also legalizes sports betting in Indiana, however the conference committee must still work out the mechanics of that aspect of the legislation.

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