Indiana Senate passes two bills to move forward NWI casino, Buffington Harbor development plans

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Rendering of the proposed new Gary casino

Indiana’s Senate has passed two bills to boost Gary’s economy and revise northwest Indiana’s casino locations.

Senate Bill 66 establishes a transportation hub at Buffington Harbor and lays out a framework for its development. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 552 authorizes a new $300 million casino and hotel alongside Interstate 80/94. The legislation, if approved by the house and signed into law, would also permit Gary’s second casino license to move to Terre Haute and authorizes sports betting.

Passage in the House is not certain, the Post-Tribune reports. Some legislators including House speaker Brian  Bosma (R-Indianapolis) have opposed gambling expansion.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, called the Senate passage a “monumental day,” for Gary and Northwest Indiana. He said the new inland casino would add 400 more casino jobs, in addition to construction jobs.

“This is truly an opportunity to develop within the footprint of Buffington Harbor and also to attract national and international businesses into Gary due to the proposed partnership between the city of Gary and the state of Indiana,” Melton said.

Senate Bill 66 is intended to position Gary as a Midwest shipping, rail, trucking and air cargo hub at Buffington Harbor and the nearby Gary/Chicago International Airport.

The bill outlines a nine-member board composed of four from Gary and five from the state. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the World Trade Center-Indianapolis would each have a non-voting member.

Language was added that calls for Ivy Tech to provide training for Gary and Lake County residents for gaming, transmodal and building trades jobs.

Last year, Spectacle Entertainment announced a deal to purchase Majestic Star’s two licenses. The Indiana Gaming Commission is expected to consider the purchase agreement at its March 8 meeting. Spectacle also has plans for a $100 million casino in Terre Haute.

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