Terre Haute inched one step closer to having its own casino Wednesday as the Indiana Senate Public Policy Committee voted unanimously to pass SB 552 through to the next steps.
The committee held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the bill. If passed, it would legalize sports betting in the state and would move a riverboat license from Gary to Terre Haute, allowing a casino to be located in the city via referendum.
The bill will now move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote next Thursday.
“It’s very exciting,” Sen. Mark Messmer, an author of the bill, said. “It’s been a goal of mine for a long. time.”
During the hearing, Sen. Greg Taylor asked Sen. Messmer what would happen if Vigo County did not approve the casino. Messmer explained that there would then be an invaluable license.
Several representatives from the Terre Haute community testified in support of the bill during the hearing. Those in attendance included members of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Casino Taskforce, members of the chamber board of directors, Sara Smith of Sycamore Engineering and St. Mary of the Woods College president Dottie King.
According to Terre Haute Mayor Bennett, Terre Haute is ready to “be more, do more and build more.” He noted that a casino is not just a building but and economic driver.
Senator Greg Taylor advised Bennett to spread the benefits from this possible economic development and to make sure there are no exclusions.
David Haynes, Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce president, estimated the casino would bring 300 to 400 jobs to the area. He also noted that the Food and Beverage Tax would be an additional source of revenue.
Also offering support of the bill were representatives from Full House Resorts, the casino in Rising Sun. In 2017, Full House was prepared to share unused games with a satellite facility in Terre Haute. Gary residents testified how having a casino helped not only their local community, but the state as a whole.
Committee members received letters from others who could not attend the hearing.
“The letters were so impactful to see everyone from business, labor, the fire department sent over 100 signatures, it’s just great to see everybody work together for the community,” Sen. Ford said. “We feel it’s important and it’s a good step for progress. It’s a victory, I would think, for us.
Not everyone supported passing the bill.
Those testifying in opposiiton included representatives from the Hammond Police Department. The mayors of Hammond and East Chicago also shared their concerns.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermmot Jr.specifically addressed the harmless clause Sen. Messmer said the bill has.
“If Gary sees an increase and the other two (Hammond and East Chicago) see a decrease in their local municipalities revenue streams, this can be adjusted adn taken care of in the provisions we have in the bill,” Messmer explained.
Representatives from the Colts, the PGA Tour and the Indianapolis Speedway also voiced concerns before the vote.