Gaming company and horse racing giant Churchill Downs Incorporated is betting on a new site for its Queen of Terre Haute Casino Resort project in Vigo County, Indiana. The business will be relocating its planned venue from the west side of the city to a highway-adjacent location on the east.
The Kentucky Derby operator, which in February filed an application with the Vigo County Area Planning Department to rezone approximately 49 acres located on East Margaret Drive, just west of State Road 46, has now been greenlighted by the Indiana Gaming Commission.
The project was originally set to be located near the Illinois state line, on 20.9 acres of undeveloped land between the Wabash River and the Haute City Center mall. Given its location, adjacent to a sewage treatment plant and within sight of the execution chamber at a nearby federal prison, the site was seen as potentially “unappealing,” explains The Times of Northwest Indiana.
This led to communication with Terre Haute officials and citizens, which prompted the operator to reconsider its west side location in favor of the new east site. The area provides extra space for potential future expansion, is more accessible, is part of a growing commercial core, has overwhelming public support and fits the city’s road infrastructure plans, according to CDI officials.
“For months, people from across West Central Indiana encouraged us to build the Queen of Terre Haute on the east side of town,” said Jason Sauer, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for CDI last month. “We listened, and today we’re excited to start down the path to groundbreaking on a nearly 50-acre site that’s easily accessible from I-70 and State Road 46.”
Officials for the company told the Indiana Gaming Commission on Tuesday that, pending formal approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and a city zoning variance, CDI expected to break ground on the new casino as soon as late May, according to Tribune-Star.
The gaming business anticipates a 14-month construction, meaning an opening in late 2023. Additionally, CDI now expects a supply cost increase, which raises the projected cost to about $260 million from an original estimate of $240 million.
The company is set to go before the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals on March 17 for a variance needed to erect the resort's hotel. It also needs approval from the FAA as the project is to be located within 5 miles of the Terre Haute Regional Airport. CDI anticipates no issues in these regards.
The initial scope of the Queen of Terre Haute project “remains unchanged” as a result of the proposed location, the business announced in February, although CDI noted the larger site would provide additional opportunities for expansion “in the future.”
According to CDI, the approximately 400,000-square-foot development is projected to usher a $190 million annual economic impact and create 1000 construction jobs, as well as 500 permanent positions.
The company earned a gaming license for the project in 2019. It is slated to include 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, a 125-room luxury hotel, a TwinSpires sportsbook, a steakhouse, a rooftop bar, among other amenities detailed in earlier plans.
Last month, CDI entered a definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of casino and hospitality business Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) for total consideration of $2.485 billion. The racing and gaming company will acquire all of P2E’s assets in Virginia and New York, including Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, plus the operations of Hard Rock Sioux City casino property in Iowa.
This move was followed by the company's announcement in late February that it is exiting the online casino and sports betting businesses.