Churchill Downs and Terre Haute Officials Are Constructing a $260 Million Casino in Indiana

Several community leaders in Terre Haute, Indiana met with Churchill Downs Incorporated officials on Tuesday to break the ground for the Queen of Terre Haute. This is a $260 million casino that is on the east side of Terre Haute.

Bill Carstanjen (Churchill Downs’s CEO), Duke Bennett (Terre Haute’s Mayor), and Indiana State senator Jon Ford lead the ceremony. The casino resort is scheduled to start operating in early 2023.

The casino project will form 500 part-time and 1,000 full-time jobs. Besides, the Queen of Terre Haute will generate $190 million for the local community’s economy. Mayor Duke Bennett informed reporters on Tuesday that Terre Haute will be free to choose what it wants to do with the revenue that the resort will generate.

The mayor added that the project’s opponents don’t have to visit the casino even though it will still benefit them. About 63.4 percent of voters in Western Indiana supported the 2019 referendum.

The city official stated that the officials would collect the money that Terre Haute controls and improve its residents’ lives. The city can opt to pave sidewalks or improve parks. Moreover, the Queen of Terre Haute will be the 13th commercial casino with a valid gaming license in Indiana.

Terre Haute’s Gaming Journey

Senator Jon Ford and Bennett said that Terre Haute’s road to last Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony was rocky as it had several stops. The latter added that it was a journey as the Indiana State Senate committee reached a deadlock in 2017 while discussing a bill to give Vigo County the green light to conduct a referendum.

The community is made up of 106,000 people. But, the Terre Haute casino’s language was added to the expanded casino gaming bill after two years and it legalized sports gambling.

The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) was supposed to grant the group that Greg Gibson (a community leader and local entrepreneur) and Rod Ratcliff (an Indiana Gaming executive) led a license a month after the referendum passed. Hard Rock International wanted to run the casino resort for them.

Even so, the Indiana Gaming Commission discovered in January 2020 that the federal government was investigating Ratcliff’s gaming company. It delayed issuing the license. Even so, it excluded Ratcliff from the casino project and approved its license in May 2020.

The project stalled for over a year as the developers struggled to find crucial personnel and faced financial constraints thus prompting the IGC not to renew its license last year. It got four proposals in the fall and chose Churchill Downs in a full-day public hearing with presentations from four groups.

The IGC had to settle Gibson’s appeal and reimburse him a $5 million license application fee before it awarded the gaming operator the license. Ford stated in an interview that it felt fulfilling to have reached that stage as the community has proved its resilience.

Attracting Local Players

The initial plan underwent several transformations despite the IGC picking Churchill Downs’ proposal. The county and city officials urged the developer to pick a site that is close to Terre Haute’s east side. Bennett admitted that the exit on Interstate 70 is easily accessible compared to the one that is four miles west that the initial proposal had.

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