Indiana Gaming Commission

Churchill Downs awarded Vigo County license, beats Hard Rock's officially-backed bid

Indiana Gaming Commission's public hearing on Wednesday.
United States
Reading time 2:23 min

Churchill Downs Inc. has been awarded the license to develop and operate a casino in Vigo County, Indiana. The company won the permit in a 7-0 vote on Wednesday evening from the Indiana Gaming Commission, against rivals Full House, Hard Rock and Premier Gaming.

At the public hearing, all four applicants were given 30 minutes each to propose their visions for the Terre Haute casino to the commission. Two commissioners initially voted for Full House, but after a motion to award that company failed, they added their votes to the Churchill Downs project, reports Washington Times-Herald.

Applicants also had to answer questions from the commission, which made each presentation last a little over an hour. Following that initial phase, Hard Rock and Premier Gaming were left out of the competition, with Full House and Churchill Downs as the two finalists.

Churchill Downs is now set to develop its proposed Queen of Terre Haute casino, which will be located on 20.9 acres of undeveloped land on Honey Creek Drive, near Haute City Center Mall. The company will invest $190 million, of which $110 million will be destined for construction.

The proposed 392,816 square foot facility will imply the creation of 1,000 construction jobs. About 56,400 square feet of the venue will be used for the casino portion of the building, which will count with 1,000 slot machines and 50 game tables.

The project also envisions the creation of 500 permanent jobs and a 10-story, 125-room luxury hotel, plus a TwinSpires sportsbook. The company projects its casino to produce about $638.9 million in gross gaming receipts in the first five years, and draw an approximate 6.7 million visitors.

CDI further plans to develop an entertainment space with seating for 500 patrons, which will “complement, rather than compete” with the new $35 million Terre Haute Convention Center. According to the company, this Special Events Room will be “a powerful tool” to help the city attract events to the downtown.

Churchill Downs’ facility will feature a maximum capacity of 6,600 people, while the connecting hotel will be able to receive up to 900 guests in standard, junior and executive suites, plus a presidential suite. It is projected to serve in excess of 1.3 million gaming patrons per year.

One issue brought up during the Indiana Gaming Commission meeting was the choice to locate the casino near Haute City Center, while other applicants envisioned their venues at the juncture of Interstate 70 and Indiana 46. CEO Bill Carstanjen said the company is willing to listen to the city and reconsider the proposed location.

Near the end of the meeting, Carstanjen produced a check for $5 million, which covers the fee for the license. "We will do right by this decision," he said, according to the Times Herald. "We're getting started right now." The CEO expects the casino to be up and running within 12 to 16 months.

The name of the casino resort is inspired by Terre Haute's nickname, "Queen City of the Wabash Valley." Churchill Downs’ casino was the one with the largest square footage of all the four proposed venues.

The venue will be the company’s first Indiana venture. The group, most well known for horseracing and the Kentucky Derby, currently owns about a dozen casinos and five racing facilities.