4 companies seek to revive stalled Terre Haute casino plans

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(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Two companies that already operate casinos in Indiana are among four seeking to take over the stalled effort to open a new casino in Terre Haute.

Those applications were submitted by Wednesday’s deadline to the Indiana Gaming Commission for the Terre Haute project that derailed amid an investigation into criminal and financial misconduct allegations against top executives in the ownership group which first sought the license in 2019.

Details about the applications weren’t released.

Gaming Commission executive director Greg Small said the agency was pleased with the level of interest in the Terre Haute license.

“The work to evaluate these proposals begins immediately, with the goal of setting a commission meeting date for official action before the end of the year,” Small said in a statement.

The applicants include Hard Rock International, which had an agreement to operate a planned $125 million casino in Terre Haute before the state commission voted in June against renewing the casino license because the new ownership hadn’t hired an executive team or secured full financing after more than a year. Florida-based Hard Rock in August took over ownership of a new $300 million casino in Gary from Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment, the company entangled in the investigation.

The other proposals were submitted by Full House Resorts, the owner of an Indiana casino in the Ohio River town of Rising Sun; Louisville, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc., which has 10 casinos in eight states; and a partnership including Premier Gaming Group, which owns a Mississippi casino.

Churchill Downs said in a news release that its Terre Haute proposal included a casino and a 125-room hotel, with the project resulting in 500 permanent jobs.

The Terre Haute project has faced turmoil since early 2020 since state casino officials began investigating Spectacle Entertainment and then-CEO Rod Ratcliff after the filing of federal charges of illegal political campaign contributions involving a longtime Ratcliff business partner, former Spectacle vice president John Keeler.

State officials forced Spectacle last year to give up ownership of that project to Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson. The gaming commission decided, however, decided in June against renewing the casino license for Gibson’s company and opened up a new application period.

Ratcliff has denied wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged by federal authorities in the campaign financing case. Keeler is awaiting trial on the charges.

Ratcliff agreed in March to give up his state casino license and sell his ownership stake in the Gary casino, ending more than a decade as a heavyweight in Indiana’s gambling industry.

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