Four very different proposals for a Vigo County casino include Hard Rock (top left), Premier Gaming Group (top right), Full House Resorts, Inc. (botton left), and Churchill Downs (bottom right). Tribune-Star collage
Four very different proposals for a Vigo County casino include Hard Rock (top left), Premier Gaming Group (top right), Full House Resorts, Inc. (botton left), and Churchill Downs (bottom right). Tribune-Star collage

Mark Bennett and Mark Fitton, Tribune-Star

Further information on the proposals of four companies vying for the Vigo County casino license became available today.

Those four license applicants are CDITH LLC (Churchill Downs of Louisville, Ky.); FHR-Atlas LLC (Full House Resorts Inc.), HR Terre Haute LLC (Hard Rock); and Terre Haute Entertainment LLC (Premier Gaming Group of Union, Ky., and Terre Haute Entertainment Holdings LLC).

Two of those — Hard Rock and Full House — currently operate casinos in Indiana.
Each company submitted applications to the Indiana Gaming Commission by its Wednesday afternoon deadline.

Full House

Full House Resorts first introduced itself to the Terre Haute area in December of 2016. That’s when the Las Vegas-based company announced a proposal to build a casino in Terre Haute, as a satellite of Full House’s casino in Rising Sun, Indiana. The satellite casino plan didn’t come to fruition.

Full House announced its latest proposal Thursday afternoon.

That proposal calls for a $250-million gaming and entertainment outlet to be called “American Place.” It would be developed on 32 acres of land that Full House says it has under contract near the Interstate 70 and U.S. 40/Indiana 46 intersection on Terre Haute’s east side.

The Full House application packet includes a rendering that shows a map with its complex cited on the south side East Margaret Avenue directly behind the Pilot Travel Center and the VoMac Sales & Service Truck Center.

A Full House summary of its proposal calls its facility design “unique in several respects.

“The hotel is elevated above an interior greenscape, in a shape resembling a ‘happy smile,’” the company said in the release Thursday. “A majority of the guest rooms are on upper levels and enjoy extended views. Atop the hotel is a pool deck and restaurant, overlooking the Wabash Valley. Along the busy neighboring freeway, Full House plans to build a large greenhouse, offering a lush interior environment. Within the greenhouse, the project would have two restaurants that offer ‘outdoor’ dining, even in winter, as well as venues for weddings and other group events.

“The world-class casino would be located between the hotel and the greenhouse and offer approximately 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, and a state-of-the-art sportsbook,” the statement continued. “Atop the casino, the company has planned for a solar energy farm, which would provide green, sustainable energy for a portion of the complex’s electrical needs.”

Full House is based in Las Vegas and operates five casino facilities in Mississippi, Colorado, Indiana and Nevada.

Churchill Downs

Among the other applicants’ proposals is Churchill Downs’ plan, which the company announced Wednesday.

Churchill Downs’ proposed “Queen of Terre Haute” casino would feature up to 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, a 125-room luxury hotel, a state-of-theart TwinSpires sportsbook and several food and beverage offerings, according to its summary.

An economic impact study conducted by economists at Purdue University estimates that the “Queen of Terre Haute” would generate $190 million in annual regional economic impact, including 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs, Churchill Downs said. According to the study, the project is expected to deliver a 2% annual increase in the West Central Indiana gross regional product.

“In the days ahead, we look forward to making our case to the Indiana Gaming Commission as to why our proposal to build the Queen of Terre Haute is in the best interest of the residents and businesses of Terre Haute, Vigo County and the State of Indiana,” Bill Carstanjen, chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc., said in a news release.

Churchill Downs Inc. is a racing, online wagering and gaming company anchored by the Kentucky Derby. It owns and operates three pari-mutuel venues with 3,050 racing machines in Kentucky. It also own and operate Twin-Spires, an online wagering platforms for horse racing, sports and iGaming, and it has seven retail sportsbooks. It has brick-and-mortar casino gaming in eight states with approximately 11,000 slot machines and video lottery terminals and 200 table games.

Hard Rock

Hard Rock is proposing a Rocksino with 850 slot machines, 35 table and poker games, six restaurants and bars, a Velvet Sessions Showroom entertainment venue that seats 300, and a 1,000-square foot Rock Shop retail center.

“Together all these amenities mentioned will ensure Rocksino Terre Haute becomes a regional destination casino that is a must-visit attraction with entertainment options for all ages,” the company said in its summary to the Gaming Commission.

Hard Rock International is a Florida- based international restaurant and gaming company. The Seminole Tribe of Florida acquired the Hard Rock brand in 2007.

The company recently took over Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary from Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment. Hard Rock had been operating the new $300 million casino in Gary since it opened in May.

Besides Gary, Hard Rock casino locations in the U.S. include Atlantic City, New Jersey; Biloxi, Mississippi; Cincinnati, Ohio; Hollywood, Florida; Stateline, Nevada; Wheatland, California; Sioux City, Iowa; Tampa, Florida; and Catoosa Oklahoma. It is in the process of opening a casino in Rockford, Illinois.

Premier/Terre Haute Entertainment

The proposal by Terre Haute Entertainment LLC and Premier Gaming Group would include a casino with 800 slot machines and 20 table games, including some on an outdoor smoking patio; a sports-themed, full-service sportsbook restaurant; a fine-dining restaurant; a lunch-dinner café, a feature bar on the casino floor with bartop games; and a covered outdoor rooftop bar.

The hotel plan includes meeting space, a full-service spa and fitness area. The site plan also shows the location of the outdoor pool and a wellness trail around the landscaped property beginning and ending in a park focused on wellness for patrons and the community.

Premier Gaming Group, per its website, has experience “in most of the major gaming markets in the United States, including Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Washington.

Currently, Premier Gaming Group is an owner and operator of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino & Hotel in Natchez, Mississippi.”

Premier President Kevin Preston said in a Tweet, “Great team — great city, thankful for the opportunity to go through the process.”

The process

The current application process started after the Gaming Commission in June denied an annual license renewal to Lucy Luck Gaming LLC, which is led by Terre Haute businessman and philanthropist Greg Gibson.

Commissioners at the time said Lucy Luck did not have an executive team in place and held that Lucy Luck’s financing was incomplete. The commission then reopened applications for a new Vigo County casino.

Lucy Luck has appealed that license renewal denial. It is unclear how that appeal might affect the restarted application process, and Gibson has not yet commented to the Tribune-Star on that prospect.

Greg Small, executive director of the Gaming Commission, said Wednesday the commission was pleased with the level of interest

in the Vigo County license and now will evaluate the proposals. The commission hopes to set a meeting date for official action before the end of the year, he said.

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