Mayor Henry: ‘Keep open mind about city gaming’

Mayor Tom Henry at the IPFW Remnant Trust kick-off at the Allen County Courthouse.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom has written an Op-Ed piece for the Journal Gazette regarding the casino/gaming/gambling issue in Fort Wayne:

Keep open mind about city gaming

The city of Fort Wayne began studying the issue of gaming several months ago. It was not something we sought. It was an issue – an opportunity – brought to us by private business groups.

Our reality is this: Some 20 years ago, the state of Indiana made the choice to permit gaming in our state and within our communities. Our state government partners with these companies, licenses them, oversees their operations and has made us all their beneficiaries. Every year, Allen County receives more than $2 million in gaming revenues.

As I’ve pondered this issue, I am reminded that any venture, no matter how beneficial it appears, comes with certain costs. Large factories that create many jobs can cause environmental harm or stress infrastructure. Intense building on the edges of a city can drain resources from an already disadvantaged urban core. All development has consequences. How those costs are dealt with becomes the balancing force. In the end, with any opportunity, we must decide: Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

We know the issue of gaming has broad implications. That is why we are studying it in depth. We need to fully understand what those implications are – both the positives and the negatives.

As mayor, I am committed to creating opportunity for all our citizens and making sure that Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana have every chance to thrive and compete.


The possibilities

Imagine along with me what an opportunity with all of these components could mean for us:

  • A capital investment of up to $100 million.
  • A privately developed, first-class, mixed-use project built with no public dollars.
  • The immediate punch of more than 600 good-paying construction jobs.
  • Hundreds of steady operational jobs – 350 or more.
  • A unique entertainment option injecting more energy and excitement into Fort Wayne’s newly burnished downtown.
  • An annual revenue stream of from $10 million to $20 million.
  • New financial resources that could be applied to priority community needs such as economic development, education, new technologies, infrastructure or quality-of-life enhancements – choices we would determine together, dedicated to assets that would have long-lasting, legacy effects.
  • Perhaps a new math, science and engineering high school for our children.
  • Worker training and retraining programs to help our exceptionally motivated workforce regain its competitive edge and ensure Fort Wayne is always a prime place for business growth.
  • Resources to strengthen our region and state in efforts to attract new jobs.
  • Communitywide investments in our world-class, award-winning parks and recreation system.


Both sides matter

I’ve always been a straight shooter. It’s easy to count the positives about an idea, but there’s no denying that gaming comes with the potential for real social costs.

If it were to advance, we would prepare for those possible downsides. We’d tackle those community issues first, funding programs through our churches and social service agencies to continually alleviate them, and to support our local assistance providers.

So we have come full circle. If we could realize the vision as described in its entirety, would we not want to explore this opportunity more thoroughly? Would we close the door without knowing whether these conditions could be met?

In the midst of all of this, I have discovered that the real questions before us are not just about gaming, but rather about some of the larger issues confronting Fort Wayne: What are our priorities? What kind of community do we want to be? How are we going to achieve those goals in these difficult economic times?

So let’s seize this moment to do several things that are essential for our community

Let’s continue the community conversation about the benefits and costs of this opportunity. Of equal importance, let’s discuss how we can best address the critical needs of our community.

Let’s allow the emerging prospect of gaming to move forward at the pace it is developing. Right now, that pace is determined by the Indiana General Assembly.

Let’s have the courage to pursue a full consideration of the gaming issue. For it to be embraced, the components outlined must be fulfilled in total. It would have to bring us new jobs, high-quality investment and significant new revenue enabling us to enrich our community in meaningful ways. Nothing less would be acceptable. And if those goals were not met, I would not flinch from rejecting it outright.

As mayor, I am always mindful that my first responsibility is to the people of this community and to Fort Wayne’s economic health. For gaming to happen here, it has to be right, and it has to benefit our community, our region and our state.

I am convinced that we must always have the audacity to explore new ways to grow jobs, enhance our neighborhoods and build a stronger Fort Wayne. I believe we must keep the door open for opportunity to enter. But in our pursuit of it, we must be discerning in our decision-making and steadfast in our commitment to realizing the promise of this extraordinary community.

Related Images:

Exit mobile version