Now that state law permits riverboat casinos in Indiana to create land-based options near their current locations, the owners of the Majestic Star Casino in Gary are going forward with plans to replace its aging casinos boats at the Buffington Harbor property.
Barry Cregan, Majestic Star’s senior vice president and general manager, said, “potential sites within our campus footprint” at the northwestern Indiana property are being looked at for a potential new casino and event center estimated to cost between $95 million and $135 million, depending in part on location. In recent legislative sessions, Majestic Star was one of three Indiana casinos that lobbied for land-based gaming. Majestic Star executives said in order to compete with land-based casinos in neighboring states the move onshore was necessary. They also said a land-based casino with a single-floor would be more convenient for customers, and closing due to severe weather would no longer be an issue.
Opening in 1996 and 1997, the useful life of Majestic Star’s two boats is coming to an end, according to written testimony to the legislature by the company in 2014. However, land-based casinos were not favored by all casinos. Arguing that an already unstable market would be upset further, opposition was expressed by the parent company of Majestic Star’s East Chicago neighbor, Ameristar Casino and Hotel, in testimony before a legislative study in 2014.
In November the Tropicana Evansville casino announced plans to move from the Ohio River to a facility costing $50 million on land between the two hotels it owns there. Earlier this year, a new lease agreement with the Tropicana was approved by the City of Evansville to build the 75,000 square-foot casino slated to be completed in mid-2017. The existing riverboat casino in Evansville has just over 38,000 square feet and generates approximately $120 million in gaming revenue. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 1.2 million people visited the Tropicana Evansville, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission’s annual report. Over the same period the two Majestic Star boast, with 78,020 square feet of gaming space, generated $160 million in gaming revenue and had nearly 2 million visitors.
Due to new casinos popping up in the neighboring states of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio over the past few years, Indiana casinos have seen major revenue declines and hundreds of job losses. Meanwhile, in 2015 the four casinos in the state’s northwest area showed a gain for December, the years only such gain.