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Big win for Gary land-based casino proposal in first Indiana Senate committee

Spectacle Entertainment unveiled plans Wednesday to construct a $300 million boutique casino, including a 200-room hotel, along the Borman Expressway in Gary, if the General Assembly permits the Majestic Star to move off its Lake Michigan dock.

Allowing a Gary riverboat casino to become a land-based facility on the more accessible Interstate 80/94 corridor poses an exciting opportunity for the Steel City.

But it also could spell economic disadvantage for casinos operating in other Region municipalities.

The Indiana Legislature is considering a bill to this end. It should act to address potential inequities in any new measure it passes, including opening the door for Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City casinos to become land-based if they so choose.

It’s all about fairness and equal footing in commerce.

John Keeler, an attorney for Spectacle Entertainment, presented Indiana lawmakers last week with a Gary land-based casino plan that could generate an estimated $75 million annually in additional net revenue for the state.

It has long been argued that a land-based Gary casino — in a more accessible location near the Borman Expressway corridor — would be more profitable than the struggling two locations on Gary's lakefront.

A bill that unanimously passed the Indiana Senate Public Policy Committee last week would pave the way for this land-based facility while allowing Gary's second casino license to be sold and moved to Terre Haute.

While we see the Region economic benefits of this plan, other Region cities with lakeshore-based casinos have a right to voice concern.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he's glad the Legislature is adding language to the bill that would ensure his city government — and that of East Chicago — wouldn't be shorted any revenue resulting from any economic impact the new Gary casino might have on the gambling boats in Hammond and East Chicago.

The pending measure would require the Gary operation to make up the difference based on any municipal revenue deficiencies that fall below 2019 gambling revenue levels.

But that hold-harmless clause will not protect any revenue shortfalls of the gambling businesses in either of those cities.

That's why it's important for the state to open the door for land-based casinos in Hammond, East Chicago and elsewhere.

Ideally, the pending legislation would be amended to include language allowing such facilities in all Indiana cities and towns with existing casinos.

For the sake of competitive fairness, it's the right thing to do.

Special rules shouldn't apply to Gary alone.

Hammond, East Chicago and Michigan City should be allowed the same bite at the overall apple of success.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.