With the promise that a large portion of the jobs would be given to Indiana residents and minorities, and a percentage of contracts being promised to women and minority-owned businesses it was difficult for local officials to turn down the request to allow building of casinos along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. With job creation and economic development on the table, both sorely needed in both Hammond and Gary, the owners of Hammond’s original casino the Empress, along with Donald Trump and Don Barden managed to get the approval they sought.
20 years later the unemployment rate in both cities is significantly higher than the state’s rate. Despite the employment opportunities promised by the casino developers the rate of unemployment is on a par with the 1996 rate. That being said many believe that the casinos have been good for the region as whole over the past 20 years, with the additional employment opportunities they provided boosting the region’s economic growth along with the taxes they have paid, and that the casinos were built at a time when the two cities desperately needed jobs.
According to Chareice White, Majestic Star’s director of government, community and public relations, and Dawn Reynolds Pettit, regional vice president for human resources for Horseshoe Hammond, the casinos are constantly hiring new employees at all levels and that the opportunity to move up into higher level positions exist. Staff members at several casinos have confirmed that opportunities for advancement do exist, with many of them having received several promotions since beginning to work there.
While in the early days of the casinos some businesses suffered as a result of their presence, today there is a co-existence with local businesses. One benefit of the casinos opening is the increase in numbers of visitors to the region. The casinos themselves give the local economy a boost by being customers of local businesses as well as drawing tourists. Food vendors in particular benefit from providing the casinos with goods. Other businesses that benefit are florists and landscapers, and limousine services. Utilities have received a huge boost, as the casinos operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except in only the harshest weather conditions.
The casinos are pouring funds into improvements to the region which in turn is attracting new businesses to the cities, resulting in the creation of even more employment opportunities. While some may say that the casinos have not provided the economic benefits they promised, others agree that the presence of the casinos has done nothing but good for both Gary and Hammond. Regardless of which opinion is agreed with, it seems that taking a risk on allowing the casinos to operate has paid off for the Northwest region as a whole, but more particularly for the cities of Gary and Hammond.