State lawmaker expects Indianapolis to be considered for casino

Could a casino open in Indianapolis? At least one state lawmaker thinks it could be possible.

The Indiana General Assembly is expected to consider a proposal that would allow Gary’s two casino licenses to relocate this year—one would stay in Gary, while the other could move to another city.

Majestic Star Casino and Majestic Star Casino II are both on Lake Michigan’s Buffington Harbor, an industrial area occupied by companies like Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Olympic Steel and U.S. Steel.

The casinos are among the smallest in the state—ranking third- and second-lowest in total payouts to winners in 2018—and the location could be contributing to the problem.

Gary officials would like to see one of the casinos move to a spot along the Interstate 80/Interstate 94 corridor, which sees 300,000 vehicles every day.

Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said he thinks Indianapolis will be looked at as a potential location for that second license. The city does have an off-track betting facility—Winner's Circle on Pennsylvania Avenue—but the closest casinos are Harrah's Hoosier Park in Anderson and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville.

“I would think that if you are an owner of a casino license in the state of Indiana—the largest economic market in the state has yet to have a casino—you might be interested in at least seeing if that’s possible,” Moed said.

Spectacle Entertainment, a new company that is in the process of acquiring Majestic Star and Majestic Star II, has also indicated a desire to relocate the casinos, but a specific destination has not been identified yet.

Terre Haute has been tossed around as possibility. One of Spectacle’s principal investors is Terre Haute entrepreneur Greg Gibson, and legislation in previous years has been filed to open a casino there.

Spectacle was created by and is being led by some of the same individuals who controlled Indianapolis-based Centaur Gaming before it was acquired by Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp.

John Keeler, general counsel for Spectacle, said having a casino in Indianapolis has been talked about for a long time, but he has not heard any serious discussion about it this year. And Spectacle is not publicly advocating for any specific city.

“We’re committed that one license stays in the city of Gary,” Keeler said. “It’s really up to the General Assembly where that other license goes.”

Keeler said the draft bills he’s heard about only mention Terre Haute as another location.

“We’ll go where they send us,” Keeler said.

But one Republican state lawmaker from Indianapolis is against the idea.

“I don’t think it should be considered,” Rep. Mike Speedy said. “I believe we should remain focused on continuing to make Indiana and, specifically Indianapolis, business-friendly. The more business investment is made in our state and capital city, the more tax revenue will be increased without the societal cost that gaming can sometimes bring with it.”

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