Casinos’ Two Decades Benefit Indiana

Casinos in Gary and Hammond (Horseshoe at left), Indiana have created jobs, spurred economic development and helped nonprofits over the past 20 years. The four casinos in Lake County, including Ameristar in East Chicago, brought 4,000-6,000 jobs to the area—about 1.6 percent of all jobs in Northwest Indiana.

In the past two decades, several experts agree the casinos on Lake Michigan in Gary and Hammond, Indiana have contributed to job creation, economic development and charitable donations. Indiana University Northwest Assistant Economic Professor Micah Pollak said, “They brought 4,000 to 6,000 jobs to cities that needed jobs desperately. That’s 1.6 percent of all jobs in Northwest Indiana. I’d call that significant.”

Pollak said about 4,000 people are employed by the four casinos in Lake County, including Ameristar in East Chicago. Prior to the 2008 recession, and before video gambling machines hit the market, 6,000 were employed.

Chareice White, Majestic Star Casino’s director of government, community and public relations, said the two Gary casinos have 962 team members; 331 reside in Gary and 102 have worked at the casinos for 20 years. According to the Indiana Gaming Commission’s 2015 annual report, 76 percent of Majestic Star’s employees are minorities and 90 percent are Indiana residents.

Dawn Reynolds Pettit, regional vice president for human resources at Horseshoe Hammond, said the casino currently employs nearly 2,000 people; 114 have worked there since the property opened. According to the IGC report, 62 percent of Horseshoe’s employees are minorities and 70 percent live in Indiana.

Both casinos are continually hiring at all levels. Horseshoe Senior Vice President and General Manager Dan Nita said, “I read that one of the steel plants is closing more lines. We have 70 jobs open right now.” Nita noted the casino uses numerous local vendors such as florists, limousine services, landscapers and food vendors.

White said Majestic Casino also uses outside vendors for landscaping, food and other products and services. She said 22 percent of Majestic Casino’s allowable expenditure for outside contracts go to minority contractors; more than double the 10 percent originally agreed upon with the state. The casino also agreed to spend 5 percent of its total allocation for goods and services at women-owned businesses.

Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, said Horseshoe Casino alone spends more than $18 million a year on infrastructure improvements in Hammond, and East Chicago has used Ameristar Casino revenue to improve the lakefront. Ryan said these improvements attract other businesses—and jobs–to the cities.

“There’s always going to be good and bad. But from an economic standpoint, Horseshoe has certainly helped Hammond,” Ryan said.