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Fort Wayne Reader
Earlier this month, the Gaming Study Committee released its annual report, which recommended against expanding gambling into new communities in Indiana.
In November, Ohio voters approved casinos in Toledo and three other Ohio cities.
For those of you keeping score, that’s two blows to Fort Wayne’s gambling hopes in as many months.
But as the old saying goes, every committee report has a silver lining, and for proponents of gaming in Fort Wayne, the silver lining in this report came in the form of a seemingly contradictory recommendation. Gary currently has two riverboat casinos; after coming out against the expansion of gaming, the report suggested that Gary should close the riverboat casinos and move one of them to land, thus putting the other license out on the market.
While estimating that a casino in Fort Wayne could generate between $140 million and $170 million annually, the report stated that about 40% of the total “could be displaced from Blue Chip Casino and Hoosier Park.” After accounting for displacement… “it is estimated that the net additional admission and wagering tax from a Fort Wayne casino could range from $23.0 M to $30.4 M annually.” It also estimates that additional revenue
from a Fort Wayne casino could be reduced by 25% to 26% if a gaming facility is established in Toledo.
But among those looking at the silver lining is Mayor Tom Henry, who used the report’s findings and recommendations as an opportunity to once again tell state lawmakers that all he’s looking for is a chance. “The Gaming Study Committee report released today contained good news for Fort Wayne,” a statement from the Mayor read. “It affirmed the right of the public to be heard on this important issue, something I have championed all along with my call for a referendum on gaming. The report also highlighted the significant economic potential in the Fort Wayne market, possibly $20 million to $30 million of new revenue each year. As I have said consistently, I want the people of Fort Wayne to be able to make their own decision about gaming. This report echoes those sentiments.”
Indeed, while Mayor Henry has never expressly stated that he is in favor of a gaming facility in Fort Wayne — insisting all along that it’s an option that should be explored and that he would like voters to decide in a referendum — anyone reading the statement might be forgiven for thinking that the language sure sounds a little like someone advocating for a casino. “Gaming is such a significant employer and source of revenue for the state of Indiana,” the statement continues. “I applaud the committee for its thoughtful examination of this issue and its determination to sustain the gaming industry to the benefit of all Hoosiers. The finding that a viable, untapped market exists in Fort Wayne should be especially encouraging to lawmakers and every citizen.”
But really, he’s not for a casino in Fort Wayne. Really.