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Hammond mayor: If Gary gives up a casino license, give it to us

McDermott

McDermott

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Updated: December 30, 2012 3:46PM



Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said he would support Gary’s push for a land-based casino, if Hammond can add a casino along the highway as well.

Gary’s Majestic Star casinos hold two state licenses, and he would support moving the casino to land along Interstate 80/94, as long as Gary gives its second license to Hammond.

Previous discussions for moving the casino to land included placing one license in escrow, but McDermott thought it would benefit the state and the region if Hammond used the license instead. In the past, he has opposed moving Majestic Star because it would hurt business at the Horseshoe Hammond casino.

“Gary has always been willing to give up the second license,” McDermott said, “so why not Hammond? I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, how could Gary get its casino, and Hammond won’t hurt themselves.”

Having the license go to a casino in Hammond would provide the state an additional $200 million and extra revenues from the new casino, he said.

Adding one in Hammond and relocating the Gary casino would also strengthen the gambling industry in the region in case Illinois changes its gambling laws, McDermott said. If the changes happen, casinos will appear nearby in Illinois and pull revenues from Northwest Indiana.

“The Illinois legislature is going to change the gambling laws,” he said, “it’s just a matter of when. If Indiana is going to let Gary have a land-based casino, let Hammond have the other and we can compete with Illinois.”

The idea may not gain much traction, he added, if the Republican majority in the Statehouse does not like the idea.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said the mayor’s brash comments may have hurt efforts to relocate the Majestic Star. Many conservative representatives try not to appear soft on gambling, he said, although they understand the benefits generated in revenues. Brown said Gary legislators have worked for more than five years to gain lawmakers’ support to relocate the casino.

“The leadership in the legislature has said nothing would happen unless there’s a united front on gambling in Lake County. There has not been any discussion with the legislature, so why would he make such a brash comment?”

Brown added that the state is aware of threats from neighboring states changing gambling laws, and added that top Republican leaders like Sen. David Long, have called for ideas to prevent losing gambling revenue to neighboring states.

“Yes, Illinois is a serious threat,” Brown said, “But he can’t be serious that he would make these comments without talking to Gary or the state legislature. It seems to be his style to shoot from the hip, he speaks first and asks questions later.”

McDermott said he has not discussed the idea with Gary, since they are “in competition for economic development.”

Representatives from Majestic Star chose not to comment.



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