Terre Haute Casino Bill Fizzles Out

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(Image of the Statehouse Interior Courtesy of The General Assembly.) (Image of the Statehouse Interior Courtesy of The General Assembly.)

The editor of Indiana Gaming Insight says a bill that would have opened the door for a casino in Terre Haute couldn't make it out of a Senate committee because support was not there from legislators with gaming venues in their districts. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-25), whose district includes Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson and Senator Vaneta Becker (R-50), whose district includes Tropicana Casino in Evansville, joined three others in voting down Senate Bill 354. Ed Feigenbaum says the bill's rejection means the General Assembly can now "take a step back" and look at the big picture of gaming throughout the state.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Feigenbaum says lawmakers have a chance to think long-term. "I think we're looking probably toward some sort of major, if not interim legislative study committee, perhaps more of a statewide blue ribbon commission -- perhaps commissioned by the governor -- that would look at the bigger questions and the future of gaming in Indiana," he said. Some possibilities that could be considered, Feigenbaum says, include following the lead of Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky and setting up an online lottery system, as well as examining at licensed video gaming and the future of horse racing and racinos.

The bill, which was killed by a 5-5 vote, would've sent gaming assets currently unused by the owner of the Rising Star casino in Ohio County to a new venue that would've been located in Vigo County. Senator Jon Ford (R-38) authored the bill and said investment in the proposed venue was estimated between $100 million and $150 million with a work force of some 1,250 jobs.

In a statement after Wednesday's vote, Ford said "I'm disappointed that Senate Bill 354 didn't make it out of committee today because I believe this legislation would have a positive impact on the Terre Haute community. I'm glad we started this conversation and I will continue to advocate for ways to boost our local economy and bring more jobs to Terre Haute. Although SB 354 did not go as far as I would have liked to see, I am thankful for the support I have received from leaders and residents of our community."

In recent years, statewide casino revenues have continued to fall amid increased competition outside the state and changing habits of gamblers. In the most recent issue of Indiana Gaming Insight, Feigenbaum reports that the Legislative Services Agency reports a Terre Haute casino would have an estimated economic impact of between $77 million and $88 million, far below what Rising Star owner Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts Inc. (Nasdaq: FLL) was forecasting.

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