Chesterton Tribune

 
 

'Take other people's money:' Senate leader open to land-based casino

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HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A top legislative leader wants to make Indiana’s riverboat casinos more attractive so they can compete better with newer venues in neighboring states.

Indiana Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told the Times of Munster for a report Thursday that he wants the General Assembly to do something to reverse the decline in state tax revenues from casino wagers and admissions.

“There is an all-out assault on the system that Indiana has implemented, which was to take other people’s money. They’re out to get it back,” Long said, referring to neighboring states.

Ten of Indiana’s 13 casinos are located in counties adjacent to other states. Most of the gamblers going to northwest Indiana’s five casinos come from Illinois or Michigan, The Times reported, but several tribal casinos have opened in southern Michigan near the Indiana border, and Illinois has proposed casinos for Chicago and its south suburbs. Two of Ohio’s four casinos will be located in Toledo and Cincinnati, both near the Indiana border.

“They are going to resolve that (in Illinois), and they are going to build casinos probably one right on the Indiana border, according to my sources,” Long said. “So they will be trying not only to keep their residents there but to take some of ours over.”

Indiana casino tax revenue from wagers and admissions were 5.4 percent lower last year compared with 2008. Gaming taxes remain Indiana’s third-largest source of revenue after income and sales taxes but now make up just 4 percent of the state’s total revenue stream.

“There’s a lot of pressure on us as a very important source of revenue is going down,” Long said. “Gaming revenue is under assault right now.”

Indiana doesn’t need more casinos, just “more competitive” ones, Long said.

“That could mean a lot of things, so we’ll just have to see what the proposal is,” Long said. “Then we’ll have to run it past our caucus and see if there’s an appetite for doing anything about it.”

Attempts to win approval for moving Gary’s Majestic Star casinos inland from the Lake Michigan shoreline have foundered in the Legislature in the past, in part because of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.’s efforts to protect his city’s Horseshoe Casino.

Long said he’s more open to a Gary casino deal now, but said any plan for gaming changes will need support from the entire northwest Indiana delegation.

“It’s very important for Lake County to have everyone reading off the same page for what they’d like to see for their community, and then we can talk about it,” Long said.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who sponsored the legislation creating casino gambling in Indiana and championed a land-based casino in Gary, was pleased by Long’s remarks.

“Just the recognition of the surrounding states and their impact on our gaming industry in Indiana, I think that’s the first step in terms of trying to move the idea of land-based casinos forward,” Rogers said.

She said she hopes a Gary-specific legislative proposal that includes a land-based casino and a teaching hospital with a trauma center and other economic development programs will have enough of everything that all lawmakers from the region will support it.

 

 

Posted 11/23/2012