The Churchill Downs casino project, shown here in an artist rendering, is the subject of a new lawsuit by competitor Full House Resorts against the Indiana Gaming Commission. Full House contends the commission's awarding of the available Vigo County license to Churchill Downs should be invalidated. Submitted rendering
The Churchill Downs casino project, shown here in an artist rendering, is the subject of a new lawsuit by competitor Full House Resorts against the Indiana Gaming Commission. Full House contends the commission's awarding of the available Vigo County license to Churchill Downs should be invalidated. Submitted rendering
The Indiana Gaming Commission on Tuesday approved a settlement with Lucy Luck Gaming and issued the available Vigo County casino license to Churchill Downs.

The license is issued to Churchill Downs contingent upon the company paying a $5 million license fee, and the license will not go into effect until an administrative law judge dismisses the appeal filed by Lucy Luck.

Under the settlement, Lucy Luck will get back its $5 million license fee.

"While the IGC is confident we would have prevailed in the matter, doing so would have taken months if not years of litigation," said Greg Small, executive director of the Gaming Commission. said. "This settlement allows the ICG to avoid the legal cost of continuing the litigation..."

Commission Chairman Michael McMains, in the commission's virtual meeting, extended a compliment to Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson.

"I understand this was difficult. And clearly Mr. Gibson and Lucy Luck put the interest of their community above their own personal interest in reaching this settlement, and we really appreciate it," McMains said.

Meanwhile, Full House Resorts continues to oppose the license going to Churchill Downs.

On Friday, Full House filed a lawsuit asking a judge to halt the process. It contends the Indiana Gaming Commission violated the state's open meetings law when it decided in November that Churchill Downs would receive the license over three competitors, Full House among them.

Jenny Reske, deputy executive director of the commission, said the panel is working to determine how that lawsuit will impact the licensing process.

"We haven’t had much time to reach any conclusions, but Full House has requested a stay that would, unfortunately, cause additional delay for this project," she wrote in an email.

Dennis Mullen, general counsel for the Gaming Commission, said the commission's order to issue the Vigo County license to Churchill Downs "would be conditional on a judicial finding that that stay is inapplicable to that license."

On Full House, Small said there was "a consideration of puling the issuance of the license" to Churchill Downs from the commission's Tuesday meeting agenda; however the decision was reached to recommend the license be issued.

Small said he believes the Gaming Commission "conducted a fair and transparent process focused on maximizing the potential for a successful casino project in Vigo County. The commission conducted due diligence to ensure the process was proper and conducted in accordance with all applicable laws including vetting the process in advance with the (Indiana) Public Access Counselor.

"After receiving full consideration in accord with all legal requirements, Full House was not selected for the casino license in Vigo County. Full House left that day as one of three disappointed casino applicants," Small said.

"It is disappointing that a company held to high standards of character and integrity would make such claims against the commission," Small said. "These suits could potentially stall the project yet again and potentially costing the state and Vigo County tens of millions of dollars in lost economic benefit.

"This [Vigo County casino] license was authorized by a 2019 bill, and here we are in late December of 2021 and a shovel has not been put in the ground in Vigo County," Small said. "To say that we are frustrated by this fact would be a great understatement."

"We believe Full House's claims are meritless and will respond accordingly," Small said.

Commission member Jason Dudich said "these licenses are ways the state can improve its revenue and improve economic development and workforce. We think a lot about the right person and the right operator and the right fit for Indiana and the community. It is not a decision that we take lightly.

"I am confident in the process that we took as a commission in selecting the operator for the Vigo County license," Dudich said. "These kind of legal actions, as we have seen before, have slowed down the opportunity for growth in Indiana from an economic and workforce development standpoint."

Commission member Susan Williams said she thinks the "process was impeccable and very carefully conducted with the state's legal experts advising us and outside counsel advising us. My comfort level with the way this was conducted and my comfort level with the integrity of the process is such that I am going to support moving forward.'

McMains also addressed Full House.

"I have always held Full House in high regard," adding he voted on a motion, which did not pass, to select Full House for the Vigo County casino license.

"As I sit here today, I believe I may have made a mistake. Important criteria that we consider when granting gaming licenses to licensees in the state of Indiana, based on Indiana law, is their character, their integrity, their reputation, their behavior — and frankly this action of filing these complaints can only be viewed, by me, as sour grapes.

"I think it is vindictive, malicious and I think it is frivolous," McMains said of the lawsuit from Full House. "And I am embarrassed for Full House for having done this. Did you really think the Indiana Gaming Commission is going to change their mind because you file a complaint? I rather doubt that is going to happen.

"This will not prevail and respectfully I hope that you will reconsider this action," McMains said.

An attorney at Bose McKinney & Evans, which represents Full House Resorts, said Tuesday he would attempt to reach an attorney authorized to comment on the Gaming Commission's comments.
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