INDIANAPOLIS | The head of Gary's Majestic Star casinos told state lawmakers Monday it's past time for them to act on legislation giving Indiana's casino industry a fighting chance versus new, out-of-state competition.
"I think we're already at a disadvantage," said Peter Liguori, president and CEO of Majestic Holdco LLC.
The gaming executive spoke during a House-Senate conference committee meeting that reviewed each chamber's approved versions of Senate Bill 528 and considered which provisions might be incorporated in a compromise gaming proposal.
Liguori said lawmakers need to think bigger than just tax breaks designed to encourage casinos to send customers more promotional free play coupons and make small improvements to their properties.
He said Majestic Star is "ready and prepared" to invest in a land-based facility, on property contiguous to its Lake Michigan dock, if lawmakers would allow Indiana's 10 permanently moored casino boats to move onto land.
Liguori said building a new casino would create construction jobs in Gary -- which has an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent -- and additional casino jobs as more gamblers play at a new Majestic Star.
It also would enable Majestic Star to save the $4 million it spends annually for two boat crews required by the U.S. Coast Guard, he said.
Liguori urged lawmakers not to reinstate a Senate-approved provision stripping casino tax funds from local governments to pay for state casino tax credits, explaining that Gary and other casino cities provide police, fire and other essential services to the casinos that need to be funded.
Also discussed during the committee hearing was whether to replace electronic table games at the two central Indiana horse track casinos with live dealers. Supporters say the change will create up to 600 new jobs.
The panel is expected to produce a final proposal by the end of the week that must be approved by both chambers before it can go to the governor.
However, land-based gaming and live dealers are considered by many in the Statehouse, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Republican Gov. Mike Pence, to be an "expansion" of gaming, and any proposal containing those provisions is unlikely to become law.