“…discourage any attempt to allow a referendum for a Fort Wayne casino”

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An Open Letter to Indiana Legislators from John F. Popp and the Coalition for a Better Fort Wayne:

January 8, 2010

Dear Indiana Legislators,

We are well aware of the full agenda you have to deal with during this short session which will focus on the economy, the budget short-fall, tax caps and redistricting, and we appreciate your serving your constituents during this crucial time.

We also know there is the possibility that the gambling interests may take this opportunity to resurrect the idea of a casino in Fort Wayne and ask for a referendum. As you probably know, the Gaming Study Committee came to this conclusion:

Based on increased competition from tribal based casinos and the likelihood of new casinos and racinos in neighboring states, the Committee believes an expansion of gaming to new cities or counties where gaming currently does not exist is not in the best interests of the state or the gaming industry at this time.

It was clear from the testimony during the four hearings that both Blue Chip and Hoosier Park would be dealt a huge financial blow if Fort Wayne opened a casino. Blue Chip has already suffered a 30% drop in revenue from Four Winds (a Native American Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan) and a second one nearly in Battle Creek (Fire Keepers) has just opened and promises to erode revenue even more. A third one (Gun Lake in Kalamazoo) will open within a year. A Fort Wayne casino would reduce Blue Chip another 30% according to the Study Committee’s report. Hoosier Park defaulted on their debt payment in October of 2009 and the owners say 30% of their revenue is from Fort Wayne residents and when they paid $250 million for their license, their business plan included Fort Wayne in their territory. The State of Indiana can ill-afford for either of these casinos to fail and cease providing their tax revenue the state now counts on.

Furthermore, we represent a large contingent of citizens who do not want a casino in our city. We don’t want the tragic social costs that are often associated with casinos. Ours is a diverse group which includes ministers as well as business leaders. The attached list of supporters demonstrates that respected business and community leaders are committed to keeping Fort Wayne a casino-free city.

We urge you to discourage any attempt to allow a referendum for a Fort Wayne casino . . . it makes no sense when the Study Commission, after thorough consideration, has recommended against it and there is such widespread opposition in the first place.

Yours truly,

John F. Popp
CEO, Aunt Millie’s Bakeries
Chairman, Coalition for a Better Fort Wayne

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