The CEO of Majestic Star casinos made it clear Monday he wants to do his part to help Gary prosper and that a land-based casino remains part of that plan.
When asked about any plans to spruce up the two gaming boats at Buffington Harbor, Majestic Holdco CEO Peter Liguori told Gary Chamber of Commerce members the near possibility of a new land-based casino figures into that decision.
"Do you continue to invest a lot of money in the boats if in a year or two or three you will be selling them for scrap?" he said in answer to Chamber member and construction company owner Doris Leaf's question.
Despite what could be the advent of land-based gaming in Gary, the company has already updated its slot machines and plans some "freshening up" of the gaming boats in the near future, Liguori said.
Legislative proposals to introduce land-based gaming to Gary by allowing Majestic Star to use one of its licenses for a new facility near the Borman Expressway so far have failed to gain traction in the Indiana General Assembly. But city leaders and Gary advocates in the legislature have made it clear they will keep pushing for it, perhaps as part of a more comprehensive economic development deal for Gary.
Minnesota-based Wayzata Investment Partners bought the Majestic Star casinos out of bankruptcy in late 2011. Both had been owned by Barden Gaming. The investment firm formed Majestic Holdco to be the parent company of both boats as well as another gaming operation in Tunica, Miss.
At the monthly chamber meeting at the Steel City Buffet, Liguori also outlined aggressive plans to increase employment of Gary residents and the use of Gary-based suppliers by his gaming company.
The company is implementing a "Gary First" employment program that will give preference to Gary residents for jobs at the casino when qualifications of competing applicants are equal, Liguori said.
Out of 1,200 people employed at the two gaming boats, 425 are Gary residents, Liguori said. With the Gary First program the gaming company hopes to "move that number much higher," Liguori said.
Since June, 39 Gary residents have been hired, he added.
Another program will target Gary-based companies when the casinos purchase supplies, Liguori said. It will be rolled out in January.
Only eight of the casino's 425 suppliers are currently Gary based, Liguori said. The casino buys $32 million of supplies every year ranging from food to hotel supplies.