Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Churchill Downs chose to build casino in western Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The company that operates the Kentucky Derby has been selected to take over the suspended casino project. in the city of Terre Haute in western Indiana.

Members of the Indiana Gambling Commission voted on Wednesday for Churchill Downs Inc. from Louisville, Kentucky, and not three other companies representing suggestions.

The choice of Churchill Downs came after the Terre Haute project was derailed amid an investigation into allegations of criminal and financial misconduct. against the top managers of a group of owners that originally received a casino license in 2019.

Churchill Downs said he was planning a $ 240 million project to build a new casino, as well as a 10-story 125-room hotel with a rooftop lounge. The company plans to open a casino within 16 months in the area south of Interstate 70-US 41. Executives said they may also consider placing near I-70 on the east side of the city.

CEO Bill Karstanjen told the state commission that Churchill Downs does not run multiple projects or operate casinos elsewhere in Indiana like the other applicants.

“This is the market we were in a while ago,” Karstanen said. “We’re going to be totally focused on doing the best we can.”

Other contenders included Hard Rock International, which had an agreement to operate a $ 125 million casino in Terre Haute before the state commission voted against renewing the casino license in June because the group of owners did not hire an executive team and did not receive a full financing after less than a year. In August, Florida-based Hard Rock took over a new $ 300 million casino in Gary. from Indianapolis Spectacle Entertainment, the company was involved in a misconduct investigation.

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The state commission chose Churchill Downs, although previous casino group Terre Haute is struggling with the loss of its license. The panel is in talks with the group ahead of the ALJ hearing scheduled for December 3.

In addition to the racetrack of the same name in Louisville and the establishments of the same name in Kentucky, Churchill Downs operates 10 casinos in eight states.

The Terre Haute Project will be the 13th casino location in Indiana, and the city will be the first new community in the state to open a casino in 2008.

Greg Small, executive director of the gaming commission, said the construction of the new casino is very important.

“This project has been under consideration for too long and too little has been done to fully realize the benefits to the state or local community,” Small said.

The Terre Haute Project has faced unrest since early 2020 when state casino officials launched an investigation into Spectacle Entertainment and then-CEO Rod Ratcliffe following federal charges of illegal political campaign donations. featuring longtime business partner Ratcliffe, former Spectacle vice president John Keeler.

Spectacle was forced by government officials to relinquish ownership last year Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson, but his attempts to open a casino stalled.

Ratcliffe denied wrongdoing and was not charged by federal authorities with campaign finance charges. The killer is awaiting trial on the charges brought against him.

Ratcliffe agreed to relinquish his government casino license in March. and sell his stake in Gary’s casino, completing over ten years as a heavyweight in the Indiana gambling industry.

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