If the idea of a casino coming to Terre Haute sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
In 2017, Senator Jon Ford co-authored Senate Bill 354, which proposed casino operations in Terre Haute. That bill died in committee, and took Ford and other legislators back to the drawing board, where they decided to double down on their efforts.
The result? Senate Bill 552, which was filed on January 15 in the Indiana General Assembly.
The first step in bringing a casino to Terre Haute is freeing up a license from another casino, and SB 552 and Sen. Ford already name one possible location to receive that license from.
“Gary’s got a casino on water, and it’s one of the last deep water wells on the Indiana side of Lake Michigan, so the goal would be to move it inland and then the second license would be free tomove hopefully to Vigo County, Terre Haute,” said Sen. Ford.
Sen. Ford says the main draw of a casino is economic development.
“I think you know we could see anywhere from $6-8 million in local revenue and we don’t have to do a tax abatement for it or anything,” said Sen. Ford.
Sen. Ford’s argument for revenue is backed up by statistics prepared by the Indiana State Budget Agency, which found that in Fiscal Year 2018, casino wagering and admissions taxes contributedto 46 million dollars in local funds in Indiana, an increase of almost 10% from Fiscal Year 2017.
A casino would also mean more jobs, starting right at the beginning with the building project.
“$100-150 million dollar construction build which I can advocate would be union construction,” said Sen. Ford.
Locals will have a say in this process, as SB 552 calls for a referendum, which could appear on this year’s municipal election ballots.
“The question would be fairly simple, you know, does Terre Haute want a casino or not? And this would give our citizens, our voters, the opportunity to weigh in on the subject,” said Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce President David Haynes.
Another option would be to move gaming operations to Terre Haute rather than a license.
“It would just be a matter of a casino being able to utilize Terre Haute as a location for its excess games, either way it means a casino for our community and we support the bill generally becauseeither way, Terre Haute wins,” said Haynes.
The process is just beginning. Next, Ford and Senator Mark Messmer, the other co-author of SB 552, will lobby for a committee meeting. If the bill passes the Senate, it’ll go to the House and start all over.
Sen. Ford points to April as a time when the public could have better knowledge of whether or not this bill will go through.
Sen. Ford did not give any specifics as to a possible location for the casino, but did say that an ideal location would be near the interstate.