(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) - A study committee on gambling has said yes to Gary, but no to Fort Wayne.
A legislative panel has unanimously recommended letting Majestic Star Casino combine its two gaming boats on Lake Michigan into a single land-based casino off I-80/94.
Gary leaders and casino owner Don Barden predict the move would bring in more money than the two existing boats combined.
Mayor Rudy Clay and Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) say Majestic Star's bankruptcy filing last month should be no obstacle.
If Majestic Star lacks the financing, Rogers predicts, authorization of a more favorable location will "open the floodgates" to developers eager to snap up the license.
Representative Charlie Brown (D-Gary) proposed a land-based casino in this year's session, with the money to be used to build a new teaching hospital in Gary.
Rogers says the bill she'll file will follow the same division of revenue that's been used for the state's other casinos, but says the accompanying "local development agreement" with Gary could be used to build a hospital if that's what the city wants.
The study committee rejected pleas from Fort Wayne and Steuben County for a casino license.
The committee says expanding gambling into new counties "is not in the best interests of the state or the gaming industry."
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has been promoting the idea of a casino, or a referendum to gauge local support.
The legislature would have to approve any such vote, even a nonbinding one.
Representative Matt Bell (R-Avilla), who says he remains undecided on a northeast Indiana casino, says the committee vote is a setback, but says the door is still ajar.
The Gary consolidation would mean the second Gary license would revert to the Indiana Gaming Commission, and the committee explicitly declined to recommend what should be done with it.
The study committee rejected several pleas from casinos for breaks on taxes or licensing fees.
The panel does recommend eliminating a quirk which taxes slot machines at the state's two racetrack casinos at a rate a few points higher than on the riverboats.
The committee's recommendations are nonbinding.
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