FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A charity casino in Fort Wayne is responding to allegations from a Fort Wayne City Councilman that it’s been operating illegally.
Councilman Russ Jehl, who represents the city’s 2nd District, authored a resolution that would encourage the city to take a look at how easy it is to open a casino in Fort Wayne.
Momentum for the resolution started when the Elks Casino on St. Joe Center Road received special permission to operate in an area zoned Neighborhood Center (NC) on May 18.
Normally, gaming and gambling facilities have to be zoned C3 in Fort Wayne.
The issue of the Elks Casino zoning being incorrect was brought to their attention on Dec. 18 by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
Elks Lodge #155 moved into the location, and one official with the organization told WANE 15 that since they are a fraternal order, they qualify under section 157.214 of the Fort Wayne Zoning ordinance, which allows things like a clubhouse or fraternity to operate in Neighborhood Commercial zoning.
Jehl’s issue is that the charity gaming location had already been in operation since 2021, meaning they would have been in violation of Fort Wayne’s zoning ordinances for two years, but in the eyes of Elks Lodge #155, which runs the charity casino, it’s not that simple.
The lodge shared records with WANE 15 detailing more than $500,000 in donations given to charities since 2021. Those records can be read here:
The lodge sent out a statement in response to the allegations. A portion of the statement reads as follows:
Fort Wayne Elks Lodge #155 are disappointed with Councilman Jehl’s remarks in the media, as well as his vulgar dismissal of the more than 60 charitable organizations that we support that took place at the end of the Zoning Board Meeting on May 18.Fort Wayne Elks Lodge #155
“The Charity Casino is strictly governed by both the Indiana Gaming Commission and the Indiana State Excise Police,” the statement continued. “Those entities have never cited either the Elks or its Charity Casino for any violation in the time it has been open.”
The same official ultimately told WANE 15 that the Elks Casino isn’t even truly a casino and that the money they earn from table games goes toward overhead and charitable causes.
They say that they just hold charity game nights three times a week and they also say that the Indiana Gaming Commission doesn’t consider them a “casino,” but a “charitable casino.”