The debate over a land based casino will begin in the Indiana General Assembly again in 2012. The city of Gary wants approval for a new land based casino. It’s a debate that could lead to renewed discussion of an Indianapolis casino.
The mayor-elect of Gary, former Indiana Attorney General Karen Freeman-Wilson, still hasn’t taken the oath of office but she already has a legislative agenda. At the top of the list is a land based casino. “Currently we have about $400,000 a month in gate receipts,” says Freeman-Wilson. “It’s estimated that those would double so it would be a tremendous shot in the arm economically.”
Donald Trump first brought gambling to Gary in the mid-’90′s with a riverboat casino. (Gary now has two.) It was the first step that led to 13 casinos statewide. And so when the idea of a land-based casino in Gary first came to a vote in 2010 opponents warned that it would speed the growth of gambling in Indiana. “We will have slot machines in the nursing homes,” said GOP Rep. Mike Murphy at the time, “and we’ll wheel ‘em up to your bed and you’ll be able to use your medicaid match to make your money.”
But Karen Freeman-Wilson has already met with the govenror and Mitch Daniels is open to her new suggestion “Everybody here wants to help Gary anyway we can,” said Daniels Tuesday. “I’ve always said I’m open to some adjustment of the casino arrangement up there.” Daniels says he’s not stuck on the idea of boats.
“To have one land-based casino would be far better than having two riverboats,” says Freeman-Wilson. And it would be one more step away from the original idea to restrict Indiana gambling to riverboats.
Part of the motivation for a new approach to gambling in Gary is increased competition from Illinois and Michigan. The idea is to build a new casino just off the Borman Expressway.