Inside INdiana Business

Churchill Downs presents an aggressive timeline for Terre Haute casino

Artist rendering of a proposed casino in Vigo County, The Queen of Terre Haute. (image courtesy: Churchill Downs Inc)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The senior vice president of corporate development for Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc. (Nasdaq: CHDN) says if the company wins the open casino license for its proposed resort in Terre Haute, it will move quickly to the construction and operational phases. The company, which owns the Kentucky Derby, announced plans Wednesday to seek the license from the Indiana Gaming Commission and build a casino resort. Jason Sauer tells Inside INdiana Business the company’s goal is to open the doors to the facility in 2022.

“[It] is an aggressive timeline. But that’s something that we think we bring the team and the experience to do that,” said Sauer. “And frankly, the people of Terre Haute and Vigo County have waited long enough for this property. And we offer you the team that can do this right. And do it quickly.”

The Indiana Gaming Commission says it wants to award the license by the end of the year. Four companies submitted proposals for the license. It became available earlier this summer when the commission denied a renewal to the previous holder, Terre Haute-based Lucy Luck Gaming.

Sauer says Churchill Downs did not actively seek the gaming license for Vigo County when it first came open about three years ago. He says the company felt a local ownership group had the inside track. But as the casino project under the previous license holder floundered, CDI saw an opportunity.

“We’ve wanted to be in Indiana for several years,” said Sauer. “It was just a matter of finding the right opportunity. And that’s the opportunity that we have here in Terre Haute.”

CDI already operates gaming facilities in Illinois, Ohio and three in Kentucky. Sauer says opening a casino is a natural fit for the company’s business model.

In its proposal, Churchill Downs said its casino, The Queen of Terre Haute, would include 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games, a sportsbook and a 125-room hotel.

“Churchill Downs has a 147-year track record of offering extraordinary entertainment experiences and has significant expertise developing premier casino and gaming properties throughout the United States,” CDI Chief Executive Officer Bill Carstanjen said in a news release. “We are proud to offer our vision for this world-class casino, a true destination resort designed to draw visitors and economic activity from across the Midwest to Terre Haute.”

Churchill Downs is one of four applicants for the license. The others include Full House Resorts Inc., which operates Rising Star Casino in Ohio County, as well as Hard Rock International and Terre Haute Entertainment LLC, a joint venture between Premier Gaming Group and Terre Haute Entertainment Holdings LLC.

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