NOTE: When listed together, the companies vying for the Vigo County casino license are listed in alphabetical order to avoid any preferential treatment in this story.
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — It has been almost two years since a majority of Vigo County voters said “yes” to a casino coming to the area through a referendum on the November 5, 2019 ballot.
The process was then postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, legal battles and a reopening of the casino license application.
Now, four companies are vying for the Vigo County casino license: Churchill Downs, Full House Resorts, Hard Rock and Terre Haute Entertainment.
All four companies are promising to bring hundreds of permanent jobs to the area and estimate revenue to be nine figures.
How many jobs could each project create?
- Churchill Downs: 500 permanent jobs, 1,000 construction jobs
- Full House Resorts: 800 permanent jobs, 1,800 construction jobs
- Hard Rock: 674 permanent jobs, 2,058 construction jobs
- Terre Haute Entertainment: 400 permanent jobs, 250-300 construction jobs
How much money could each casino make in the first 5 years?
- Churchill Downs: $638.9 million
- Full House Resorts: $811 million
- Hard Rock: $561 million
- Terre Haute Entertainment: $510 million
Each company is also planning a location near I-70, an ideal spot for both local travelers and those coming from out of town.
So, what sets each of the four proposals apart?
Churchill Downs wants to build “The Queen of Terre Haute” and said the design nodded to the Vigo County community in several ways.
When would Churchill Downs plan to open its potential gaming facility?
“From the name of the facility itself, which is an obvious nod to Terre Haute’s reputation as the Queen City of the Wabash Valley,” Churchill Downs’ Senior Director of Corporate Development Jason Sauer said. “The way that we’ve designed our gaming floor, it will have intersecting pathways, which has a conscious nod to the intersections downtown of Hwy 40 and Hwy 41, the crossroads of America.”
Sauer said the Crossroads Sports Bar planned for inside the facility is another Hoosier nod.
The proposal from Full House boasts a lot of cash, with the largest monetary investment of $250 million, along with some special amenities.
What is Full House Resorts’ history with the Terre Haute casino process?
“We’re the only ones proposing a luxury hotel, a 4-star luxury hotel with 100 rooms,” Full House Chief Development Officer and Senior Vice President Alex Stolyar said. “That’s going to be superb quality, and that’s something that the community, we know, has asked for.”
Stolyar added that Full House has a deal in place to operate a temporary casino out of the Haute City Center.
Terre Haute Entertainment said its members relied on listening sessions with community members in Vigo County to guide their proposal, along with prior experience in communities like Natchez, MS, where Premier Gaming operates a casino.
How has Premier Gaming (1/2 of Terre Haute Entertainment) helped its current casino communities?
“We heard during our meetings that a pool was needed in town, a community pool would be great to have,” Premier Gaming President Kevin Preston said. “We did that actually here just a couple of years ago. We built a whole complex, a pool, soccer fields. In the last 3 years, there’s been like 60 kids on a swim team that would have never been on a swim team before.”
Preston emphasized the importance of training employees to watch out for customers who may be spending too much money at the gaming facility in order to curb gambling addiction issues.
Hard Rock representatives declined an interview for this story, but did send a statement that read in part “we are glad to be in this joint venture with our partner Greg Gibson, a Terre Haute native.”
The local businessman’s connection to Hard Rock has led some local leaders to double down in their support with formal resolutions.
Those resolutions are one of eight factors the Indiana Gaming Commission is considering when choosing a facility, but the other three companies said they also plan to prioritize the local community.
The IGC will meet on November 17 to hear 30-minute presentations from each of the four companies. The order of the presentations was made through a random drawing. Full House Resorts will present first, then Hard Rock, Terre Haute Entertainment and Churchill Downs.