Making the News

The Herald Bulletin, Indiana

Originally Published:Tuesday, October 20, 2009
http://www.theheraldbulletin.com/local/local_story_292215908.html?start:int=0

Fort Wayne mayor asks for casino referendum
oosier Park exec: Fort Wayne casino would be ‘devastating blow'

By Aleasha Sandley and Scott Miley
The Herald Bulletin, Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS - The mayor of Fort Wayne urged an interim legislative committee on Monday to help Fort Wayne voters decide in a referendum if a gaming facility should be built in the northeastern Indiana city.
The facility could "bring new jobs, quality investment and significant new revenue every year into our community," said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.

He acknowledged the facility would create a "significant amount of repercussions" but did not speak directly of the impact to Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson.

However, the Gaming Study Commission earlier Monday heard testimony that Hoosier gaming establishments, including Hoosier Park, would stand to lose $70 million if a casino was built in Fort Wayne.

Building a casino in Fort Wayne would drop the market reach for Hoosier Park from 1.834 million adults to 1.283 million since Hoosier Park draws from northeast Indiana, said Jim Brown, general manager of gaming at Hoosier Park.

"Taking away a primary market of 30 percent of that potential business would be a devastating blow to a very important industry in Anderson and Madison County," Brown said.

Brown's presentation to the committee Monday afternoon was reinforced by two presentations earlier that day, one by Spectrum Gaming Group and the other by the legislature's Legislative Services Agency, Brown said. All the presentations showed that Fort Wayne was a vital part of Hoosier Park's market, he said.

Hoosier Park's customer base from Fort Wayne was included in studies that determined how much the state would charge for licensing fees for Indiana's two racinos. Brown and other Hoosier Park officials have since said the $250 million fee was crippling to Hoosier Park's finances.

Although the licensing fees weren't widely discussed at Monday's meeting, Brown said they still were an important issue for Hoosier Park.

"We're excited about the future possibility of being on a level playing field with our riverboat counterparts, and if we can accomplish that, there's many exciting things that can and will happen at Hoosier Park," he said.

Henry asked the Interim Gaming Commission to urge the Indiana General Assembly to allow him to pursue a referendum where Fort Wayne voters would vote on the gaming issue. Henry suggested the vote would only be for Fort Wayne voters and not for surrounding Allen County residents. Some committee members suggested the referendum should be countywide. Allen County leaders, including the commissioners and council, have opposed the casino but have said a referendum should be open to all county voters.

Currently, there is no license available in the state for a casino. Both Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson and Indiana Live! at Shelbyville paid the state $250 million each for the two available licenses.

Committee members made no commitment to carry Henry's request to the General Assembly.

Committee Chairman Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the committee's final report to the General Assembly likely would be one of findings rather than recommendations.

"(A casino in Fort Wayne) is the kind of issue that will be decided by a bill itself and by the will of the majority of the legislators as to whether they want to even broach the subject," he said

.No evidence was presented that would drive the committee to recommend a casino in Fort Wayne above any other location in the state.

 

"All of the casinos have been losing business the last few years, so I think it's a question as to whether we need more casinos in Indiana or not," he said. "That will be a pretty messy issue in the legislature next year."

Contact Aleasha Sandley: 640-4805, 

 

 

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