Vigo casino decision coming today
Hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line today when the Indiana Gaming Commission hears proposals from four applicants to open a casino in Vigo County and decides which will receive a license to run the casino.
At a public hearing at noon in Indianapolis, the four applicants — Hard Rock, Churchill Downs, Full House and Premier Gaming — will each have 30 minutes to present their vision for a Vigo County casino.
To view the hearing, visit http://indiana.adobeconnect.com/ind/ and type in “Hoosier” in the name field.
Following the initial presentations, commission Executive Director Greg Small will call the roll and commissioners will each name their top two applicants.
Any applicant receiving four or more votes will advance to the final round. It is anticipated that finalists will be invited to make closing statements, after which commissioners will select the winning applicant by motion and vote.
All motions at the finalist stage must also have a minimum of four votes to pass.
It is possible multiple voting rounds will be necessary to determine the final selection.
The Terre Haute City Council has sent a letter of recommendation for Hard Rock to the Indiana Gaming Commission, as has Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett separately. The Vigo County Board of Commissioners has also issued a resolution of support and approved a local development agreement with Hard Rock.
Public comments sent to the Gaming Commission overwhelmingly supported Churchill Downs, though most of those comments came from the Downs’ employees and business partners elsewhere.
The deadline for public comments was Nov. 12.
“It’ll be significant from a couple of different perspectives,” Bennett said of the casino. “You’ll have the construction jobs and the hiring of staff, about 800 permanent employees. That’ll have an ongoing impact of putting better-than-minimum-wage jobs out there.”
He added, “People will be coming to town and travel just for that — they’ll buy gas, they may go other places. The business impact will hugely benefit local suppliers who will have a big new customer, and some of those will hire additional employees. There will be a ripple effect.”
Bennett expects an additional $10 million annually coming to the city. He said he wrote his letter supporting Hard Rock because it has “the best brand with the potential to be the most successful, which will make us all more successful.”
Bennett also expects that the owner of the new casino will help balance the budget at Hulman Links, the only city budget running at a deficit.
“We’ll sit down with the casino owner and develop some kind of agreement — whether they’ll pay us per golfer or pay us a flat fee and have all the access they want,” he said. “I’ve talked to different casinos in other communities and they do it different ways.”
Chris Switzer of the Vigo County Board of Commissioners said, “I expect the impact to be huge. A casino not only brings an incredible amount of jobs. It brings an incredible amount of new people into our community. [A casino is] a unique opportunity that many communities do not get.”
Switzer said the Board of Commissioners recommended Hard Rock because of the involvement of local businessman Greg Gibson with the organization and its pledge to use local labor in the construction of its building, but added, “If Hard Rock is not the chosen operator, I’m excited to learn more and begin a positive working relationship with whoever is selected.”
He added, “I truly believe that everything happening alongside a new casino can lift people out of uncertain circumstances and create a new or better life for anyone willing to take a risk or job doing something different and new.”
“Casinos around the state have clearly demonstrated their ability to bring economic growth to a region, in terms of long-term employment, short-term construction projects, associated business development and an influx of tourism,” said Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce President Kristin Craig. “The West Central Indiana region is ripe for this type of opportunity to bring jobs and vitality to our residents.”
The Gaming Commission also has to resolve an issue with a former licensee, Lucy Luck Gaming LLC. In June, the commission issued an order declaring Lucy Luck was ineligible for renewal of its casino owner’s license, saying a qualified executive team had not been established and that Lucy Luck’s financing was incomplete. Lucy Luck is fighting that decision.
On Monday, the commission discussed returning licensure fees Lucy Luck had already paid for to the company in exchange for the company dropping all litigation against the commission. A decision is expected within two weeks, so even though the commission is expected to decide on the licensee today, it will not yet be able to officially issue the license.
During a court hearing conducted by telephone on Tuesday, counsel for both Lucy Luck and the Gaming Commission on Tuesday asked Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Gamboa to delay the day’s hearing until the commission has responded with its counteroffer. Gamboa set the date for the next hearing — if a hearing is necessary — for Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.
That would mark the end of a push that began in early 2019, when state Sen. Jon Ford introduced a bill to allow a gaming license for Vigo County. Passage of the bill in the Indiana Statehouse was contingent on Vigo County voters agreeing to bring gambling to the area, which they did in a November 2019 election.
Lucy Luck was initially granted the license in 2020 when it was called Spectacle Jack, a spinoff from Spectacle Entertainment and the lone gaming company to seek the Vigo County license.
Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson formed Lucy Luck, breaking it away from Spectacle Entertainment — in which he also is an investor — after Spectacle Entertainment executives Rod Ratcliff and John Keeler came under investigation for alleged financial wrongdoing involving campaign contributions. Lucy Luck is a separate entity.
Here are the four current proposals:
• Full House Resorts’ American Place: It envisions a permanent casino encompassing 32 acres at 5995 E. Margaret Avenue, near the Interstate 70 and U.S. 40/Indiana S.R. 46 intersection on the city’s east side. The Las Vegas-based company has also said it would open a temporary casino in the former Macy’s store at Haute City Center, the former Honey Creek Mall, while its permanent site is under construction. It would hire 85% of its employees from Vigo County.
Full House reports says it will invest $250 million, with $187 million of that for construction of a 100,000-square-foot facility. The size of the casino portion was not provided as a separate estimate. The project would create 1,800 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs providing a total annual compensation of $30,429,915. The casino will have 1,000 slot machines, 50 gaming tables and 100 hotel four-star rooms, along with amenities such as a spa and full-time staff.
It projected 1.6 million admissions and gaming receipts of $152.1 million in its permanent facility’s first year of business. By year five, it projected gaming receipts totaling $172 million.
• Churchill Downs’ Queen of Terre Haute: It proposes 20.9 acres of undeveloped land on Honey Creek Drive near Haute City Center Mall. Churchill Downs says it will invest $239.2 million, with $138.9 million of that for construction of a 392,816-square-foot facility. The casino portion would be 56,400 square feet. The project would create 1,000 construction jobs and about 500 permanent jobs with total compensation of $20,600,000. It would feature 1,000 slot machines, 50 gaming tables and a 125-room hotel.
It anticipated attendance of 1.3 million and gaming revenues of $119.7 million in its first year, expanding to $134 million by year five.
• Hard Rock’s Rocksino: It plans a casino at 555 S. Joe Fox St., next to the Holiday Inn Express on Margaret Avenue along U.S. 40/Indiana 46 next to I-70 on Terre Haute’s east side. It will invest $191.3 million, with $116.1 going to construction of a 60,000 square-foot structure, of which 43,285 would be dedicated to the casino. The casino would create 833 permanent jobs with total compensation of $23,287,394. The Rocksino would boast 850 slot machines, 35 gaming tables and six restaurants and bar.
While it envisions building a new hotel modeled after its casino in Gary in phase two is part of its construction project, Hard Rock did not provide a number of hotel rooms, but said its project would create 2,058 construction jobs. Gary’s hotel is slated to open in 2022 with 200 rooms. It projected 1 million admissions and $104.4 million in gaming receipts in its first year, ballooning to $118.8 million by year five.
• Premier Gaming: A site on the the east side of Terre Haute near the the interchange of Interstate 70 and Indiana 46 is planned, “with sufficient size to develop the initial phase of the project as well as future phases.” Premier Gaming says it will invest $112 million, with $58 million of that for construction for a 60,000-square-foot facility with a 33,000-square-foot casino.
Construction would create 250-300 jobs, with more than 400 permanent jobs compensating $19,264,504 at an edifice with 800 slot machines, 20 gaming tables and 80 hotel rooms. Projected admissions are at 0.981 million and gaming revenue of $98.9 million in year one of business, growing to $105 million by year five.