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Caesars’ license is renewed

It took the Indiana Gaming Commission just minutes Friday to renew Caesars’ license to operate for another year in Harrison County.
The action was unanimous, following the hour-long presentation, which included a 10-minute video, that officials and the casino used to point out Caesars’ contributions and how its tax revenue, now up to $24 million a year, has been used to improve people’s lives.
The casino’s license will be reviewed next year and renewed, absent any problems, and undergo a thorough investigation in 2006.
John E. Reisert, president of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners, said, ‘Caesars has been a good neighbor. We’ve been able to do things to help people … and the problems that were predicted have never materialized.
‘We’re just very sorry we didn’t vote for it the first time,’ he said, as some people in the audience chuckled.
(Floyd and Clark counties both voted twice against a gambling riverboat; it passed in Harrison County in 1994.)
Stan Curtis of Louisville, founder of Kentucky Harvest, which works to feed the hungry and the homeless, was among many who spoke for Caesars. He said Caesars has provided enough food to feed 245,000 people.
Barry Morris, vice president and general manager of Caesars Indiana, introduced Wallace R. Barr, president and chief executive officer of Park Place Entertainment, to the Commission.
Park Place, which owns Caesars and numerous other casinos, will change its name to Caesars in January, because it is the most recognized name in the industry, Barr said.
New Albany Mayor Regina Overton told the commission that New Albany has been rewarded financially and indirectly through its neighbor, Caesars Indiana. The town has an unemployment rate of only 3.3 percent, she said. ‘Caesars has played a big part in that’ because of the jobs it offers, Overton said, adding: ‘We have nothing negative to say about Caesars.’
Caesars also provided the numbers to back up its advertising claim: ‘We came; we saw; we delivered.’ Basically, that was the theme throughout Caesars’ presentation.
The $435 million casino complex now employs 2,278 people, compared to some 2,065 in 1999, Morris said. Today, about 67 percent of Caesars’ employees reside in Harrison or neighboring Indiana counties, and about half the employees are women.
The boat’s payroll has grown from $45.5 million five years ago to $66.7 million last year, Morris said.
Morris introduced a long slate of speakers on Caesars’ behalf. They included J.R. Eckart, chair of the Harrison County Board of Commissioners; Gary Davis, chair of the county council; Darrell Voelker, director of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, and a score of other community leaders as well as casino employees.
David Davis, chief of the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept., noted how that department’s emergency runs have increased drastically since Caesars opened, so much so that the department’s existence may be in peril. Very little tax money is given for the unpaid firefighters to operate and purchase equipment, he said.
Representing the Indiana Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, Walter H. Schultz of New Albany, a long-time gaming opponent, urged the commission to fund an independent study to provide a more accurate analysis of the cost and benefits of casino gambling.
He asked the commission to take several steps to prevent problems, including the elimination of ATM machines from gambling locations, setting loss limits, eliminating or severely reducing free incentives, and informing gamblers of the amount of their losses.