Public hearing

Indiana Gaming Commission decides today the Vigo County casino license winner

Rendering for Hard Rock's Rocksino, project supported by Terre Haute's City Council and mayor.
United States
Reading time 3:23 min

The Indiana Gaming Commission is set to decide today the receiver of a license to run a casino in Vigo County. At a public hearing in Indianapolis, the four applicants —Hard Rock, Churchill Downs, Full House and Premier Gaming— will each have 30 minutes to present their proposal, which will then be followed by regulators selecting the licensee.

Commissioners are expected to each name their two applicants: those receiving four or more votes will then advance to a final round. Finalists will then make their closing statements, after which commissioners will select the winning applicant by motion and vote, reports Tribune-Star.

Both the Terre Haute City Council and the Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennet have sent separate letters of recommendation for Hard Rock to the Indiana Gaming Commission, while the Vigo County Board of Commissioners have also issued a resolution of support for Hard Rock. Public comments sent to the Gaming Commission, however, supported Churchill Downs, although most of these are believed to come from company employees and business partners.

There are four current proposals for Terre Haute. Full House Resorts is presenting American Place, a casino encompassing 32 acres at 5995 E. Margaret Avenue, near Interstate 70. A temporary casino would open in the former Macy’s store at Haute City Center while the permanent one is under construction.A total investment of $250 million will be made, and 85% of employees will be hired from Vigo County. The project would create 1,800 construction jobs and 800 permanent ones. The venue will feature 1,000 slot machines, 50 gaming tables, and 100 hotel four-star rooms, plus amenities such as a spa.

Churchill DownsQueen of Terre Haute proposes 20.9 acres on Honey Creek Drive, near Haute City Center Mall, on a $239.2 million budget. About 56,400 square feet of the total 392,816 square foot facility will be destined to the casino, which would feature 1,000 slot machines, 50 gaming tables and a 125-room hotel. The project would create 1,000 construction jobs, and about 500 permanent ones.Rocksino, Hard Rock’s proposal, consists of a casino at 555 S. Joe Fox St., on Terre Haute’s east side. An investment of $191.3 million is planned. Out of the 60,000 square feet of the structure, 43,285 would be dedicated to the casino. The venue would create 833 permanent jobs, and boast 850 slot machines, 35 gaming tables, and six restaurants and bars. A new hotel would be developed in phase two of the construction project.

Meanwhile, Premier Gaming is proposing a site on the east side of Terre Haute, near the interchange of Interstate 70 and Indiana 46. A total $112 million would be invested in an initial phase, although more would then follow. If chosen, the company would construct a 60,000 square foot facility with a 33,000 square foot casino, with 800 slot machines, 20 gaming tables and 80 hotel rooms.

The casino development is expected to have a significant impact on the region. “You’ll have the construction jobs and the hiring of staff, about 800 permanent employees,” said Duke Bennet. “That’ll have an ongoing impact of putting better-than-minimum-wage jobs out there.”

The Terre Haute Mayor claims there will be a ripple effect from the casino, as people coming to town for the venue will also go to other places and consume other goods. “The business impact will hugely benefit local suppliers who will have a big new customer, and some of those will hire additional employees,” he said.

About $10 million annually coming to the city is expected. On why he supported Hard Rock, Bennet explained it was because it has “the best brand with the potential to be the most successful.” 

Chris Switzer of the Vigo County Board of Commissioners agreed on the expected impact of the casino, claiming it not only has the potential to bring jobs but to bring new people into the community. The Board opted to recommend 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 the building, according to Tribune-Star.

The Gaming Commission is also set to resolve an issue with Lucy Luck Gaming, former licensee, which was declared in June as ineligible for renewal of its casino license as a qualified executive team had not been established and the company’s financing was incomplete.

The company is currently fighting the decision, and on Monday, the commission discussed returning licensure fees Lucy Luck had already paid in exchange for dropping all litigation. As a result, the commission will not be able to officially issue the new license until this conflict is resolved. A decision is expected to be taken within two weeks.