The Cincinnati Insider reports that a Full House Resorts investment affiliate for Rising Star Casino in Indiana has acquired a four-acre riverfront property in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. The purchase is part of a ferry-boat strategy originally announced by Full House CEO Daniel Lee in March. Further purchases such as a fully functional and working barge and tugboat are in the works, however the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers office has not yet seen an application for the requisite permit.
Ferry service is not a new idea between the towns of Rabbit Hash and Rising Star in Indiana. Regular service was enjoyed both by passengers and businesses to transport goods since the 1800’s, but that ended in 1948 when ice crushed the last of the ferries. In the 1990’s Caesars entertained an idea to cross the Ohio River from Louisville for an Indiana casino, but cost estimates and uncertainty about federal regulations squashed further development.
Full House CEO Lee intends to compensate patrons with lower room rates for the inconvenience of the ferry and shuttle transport. He and his management team are recent hires of the Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts organization that owns casinos in three economically challenged markets. Lee’s strategy for Indiana is to reintroduce effective marketing programs that engage local customers and upgrade the casino restaurants in addition to shuttling guests across the Ohio River.
Ohio County Economic Development Corp. (OCEDE) Executive Director Lane Siekman is optimistic about the land purchase stating, “[Rising Star Casino] knows their database. They know who their customers are. They know there are people over [in Kentucky] who [Rising Star] can draw back more often.” OCEDE reports that the Rising Star Casino is the largest employer in the county providing over 1,000 full and part time jobs.
Currently the local Indiana casino customer base is about 6,000 people, but there are a lot more people living across the river in Kentucky – about ten times as many folks, and the Rising Star is the closest casino to those 60,000 people. The road distance between the two areas can be up to a 40 minute drive. The nearest competition is Ohio’s new casinos, but driving distance from Rabbit Hash is still over an hour.