In Indiana, during a Senate Public Policy Committee meeting on Wednesday, members heard testimony from one opponent and several supporters of a proposal that would put a casino in Terre Haute.
Senate Bill 354 would allow casino operator Full House Resorts Inc. to move 740 gaming positions from its Rising Star Casino Resort in Southern Indiana to a new casino in Terre Haute. In 2015 the company’s efforts to get legislatures in the state to allow them to open a casino in Indianapolis received little support. Having switched its focus to Terre Haute, Full House Resorts’ chief development officer Alex Stolyar said the proposed casino presents a “timely opportunity” for expansion of the state’s gambling market in an area not previously considered for its casino, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The bill, introduced earlier this month by Terre Haute Sen. Jon Ford, would help to keep the state’s gamblers from spending their money at neighboring Illinois casinos. Stolyar reportedly said lawmakers are considering expanding gambling in Illinois that would see six locations in the state get casinos, including the city of Danville, which is approximately one hour north of Terre Haute.
During Wednesday’s committee meeting, Stolyar played a snippet from an Illinois legislative meeting where a market study regarding the proposed expansion was being discussed, according to the report. In the playback, lawmakers reportedly said that 65 percent of the casino revenue from the new Danville location would not come from Illinois gamblers, but instead from gamblers in Indiana. Stolyar, who said there is no more plan for a casino in Indianapolis, said the company wants to invest in Indiana, not in neighboring states. He said, “It’s going to give about $10 million a year to the city of Terre Haute, in addition to the jobs it’s going to create,” according to the news agency.
While the committee heard testimony from both sides of the isle on Wednesday, it did not vote on the proposal.
Third term mayor of Terre Haute, Duke Bennett, said Senate Bill 354 would promote economic development and employment in the city located near state’s western border and would compensate for the revenue and jobs lost due to the closure of long-time manufacturing operations in the area. Proponents of the casino said it would create upwards of 1,000 new direct and indirect jobs, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the creation of a Terre Haute casino creates concern for Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Tropicana Evansville, which is just two hours north of Terre Haute and is currently working to expand its riverboat operations in downtown Evansville onto land, according to the Indy Star. Tropicana’s general manager, John Chaszar, said “It would definitely affect our business in Evansville,” and, “We just made a substantial investment into the community. … Any loss of revenue not only impacts the revenue of the casino, but it also affects the revenue of the city,” according to the news agency.
Stolyar argued the casino would have “minimal impact” on other casinos in Indiana and in neighboring areas. However, a report from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimates that 43 percent of the revenue from a Terre Haute casino would shift from other casinos in the state and along with Tropicana Evansville, will impact French Lick Resort Casino, some 108 miles from Terre Haute, and racinos in central Indiana, according to the news agency.