Vigo County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a local development agreement, one of the required steps for Churchill Downs Inc. to establish a Vigo County casino to be located on Terre Haute’s east side.

The agreement is nearly identical to one previously proposed under a Hard Rock “Rocksino” proposal, however Churchill Downs offers a higher percentage once a maximum amount is reached.

Under the agreement, Churchill Downs will pay 3% of its adjusted gross revenue up to $175 million to a new non-profit foundation called the Queen of Terre Haute Foundation Inc. Churchill will pay 3.25% of any revenue over $175 million to the foundation.

Additionally, Churchill will pay 3% of the company’s taxable sports wagering adjusted gross income to the foundation.

In its proposal to the Indiana Gaming Commission, Churchill Downs estimated its Vigo County casino would produce $639.9 million in gross gaming receipts in the first five years. That’s with a projected 6.7 million people visiting the casino over those five years.

An economic impact study conducted by economists at Purdue University estimates that the Queen of Terre Haute will generate $190 million in annual regional economic impact, including 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs. According to the study, the project is expected to deliver a 2% annual increase in west-central Indiana’s gross regional product.

Under the local development agreement, the foundation will prioritize goals and pillars such as the See You in Terre Haute 2025 Community Plan as well the West Central 2025 initiative. The foundation will focus on economic development; health and wellness; infrastructure; quality of life; talent attraction/retention; and tourism.

The foundation is to be governed by an eight-member board. The board includes each of the three county commissioners or their appointee; two members to include the mayor of Terre Haute and/or appointees; two members of the casino or its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc.; and one member of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

R. Todd Thacker, business manger for the IBEW Local No. 725 and a Vigo County Councilman, questioned the addition of the Chamber member on the foundation board, saying all other members are government or casino related.

Thacker voiced concern that the chamber advocates for for-profit businesses, instead of labor unions.

Commissioner Brendan Kearns said that while he proposed forming a separate advisory group to pass on concerns to the Chamber, he said the Chamber’s See You in Terre Haute 2025 plan was developed by a broad group of non-profit organizations that advocate for issues from homelessness to mental health. Additionally, Kearns said the Board of Commissioners has a seat on the Chamber’s board of directors, where commissioners can also express concerns as needed.

After the meeting, Commissioners President Chris Switzer said “the local development agreement was spurred from the See You in Terre Haute plan … and hopefully can make things happen quickly as revenue comes in,” he said. Switzer said the agreement is in addition to funding that is required by law when the Indiana General Assembly granted an inland casino in Vigo County. The state will collect a supplemental wagering tax, previously known as an admissions tax, on each person entering a casino. In 2019, that tax was projected to raise more than $2.6 million.

The state treasurer would then distribute the tax collected during the preceding calendar quarter, with 40% (of the projected $2.6 million) going to the city of Terre Haute; 30% to Vigo County; 15% to the Vigo County School Corp.; and 15% to the Chamber’s West Central 2025.
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