GARY, In. — Members of Gary's most famous family helped break ground on a new casino that developers hope will bring millions of visitors to the area Thursday.
Marlon, Tito and Jackie Jackson stood flanked by the costumes they used to wear with late brother Michael as they marked the beginning of construction on the nearly $500 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in northern Indiana.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the brothers, who began their their musical career with the Jackson Five in 1965 while living in Gary.
“Gary, Indiana is a special place and it deserves special things,” Marlon Jackson said. “We believe this will spur the type of development so sorely needed in the city."
The new gambling and entertainment complex, which will also include a 2,000-seat music venue, steakhouse and hotel, will be located off I-94 near 29th Avenue and Burr Street in Gary.
The land-based casino will replace the aging Majestic Star gambling boat on Lake Michigan, and backers say it will bring a world-class tourist attraction to northern Indiana, not to mention jobs and economic expansion. By some estimates, more than 3 million people are expected to visit the casino every year after it opens in 2021.
“They’re going to buy food, they’re going to buy trinkets, they’re going to buy rooms to stay. So it helps everybody here," said Marcellus Osceola, chairman of the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida, which owns Hard Rock International.
If the weather is favorable during construction, the casino could be open for business by the end of the year.