If officials in Terre Haute, Ind., had their way, the casino that would be coming to the west central Indiana town would be a Hard Rock.
Last month, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, the Vigo County Council, and all three members of the county’s Board of Commissioners sent letters to Indiana Gaming Commission Executive Director Greg Small expressing their support for the Florida-based gaming company’s proposal.
Casino.org obtained the letters Tuesday through an open records request to the commission.
The letters were similarly worded and touched upon similar themes. That included noting Hard Rock’s project is fully designed and could break ground shortly after the IGC makes its award.
That award date is set for Nov. 17.
Locals: Hard Rock Ready to Roll
The commissioners and chamber officials also noted that the construction jobs resulting from the project would generate more than $3 million in local wages, with tens of millions spent on subcontractors and suppliers in the area.
“We urge you to complete this process in an expedited manner and strongly consider the opinion of the community in this matter,” said Vigo County Commissioners Ivan Mike Morris and Chris Switzer in their Sept. 17 letters.
Chamber President Kristin Craig and 2021 Board Chair John Collett included the same line in their Sept. 20 letter.
Hard Rock International is one of four applicants for the casino license. Churchill Downs Incorporated, Full House Resorts, and Terre Haute Entertainment, a partnership that includes Premier Gaming Group, also submitted bids by the Sept. 22 deadline.
In a notice on its website, the IGC told potential applicants that one factor state officials must consider when making an award is whether there’s “a resolution of support” from the local community for the applicant. It’s one of eight factors, but none of them are weighted.
IGC Deputy Director Jenny Reske told Casino.org Tuesday that local support is not a requirement for licensure.
Terre Haute Businessman Involved in Casino Venture
A spokesperson for Hard Rock declined to comment directly on the letters and referred to a statement COO Jon Lucas gave Casino.org last Wednesday regarding the company’s partnership with Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson on the venture.
“Hard Rock International (HRI) is excited for the opportunity to bring our unique brand of world class entertainment to Terre Haute,” Lucas said. “We expect a development cost of nearly $200 Million in addition to the 175 onsite hotel rooms, 2,000 jobs during two construction phases and $50 Million a year in annual county and state tax revenue once the project is operational.”
Gibson led Lucy Luck, the venture that previously held the casino license. However, more than a year after winning the license, the IGC took the believed-to-be unprecedented step of not renewing it. The state gaming regulatory body cited the lack of construction as well as concerns about executive staffing and funding for the venture for their decision in June.
Lucy Luck’s plans were to build a Hard Rock casino. Those plans called for up to 1,150 slot machines and 50 table games.
In its submission last month, Hard Rock proposed
In the statement last week, Lucas noted that Hard Rock would manage the day-to-day operations of the casino. It appears to be a similar setup to the new structure for Hard Rock Northern Indiana.
Hard Rock bought the majority stake from Gibson’s Spectacle Entertainment in August after the IGC had questions about Spectacle’s suitability as the license holder. Those questions mainly stemmed from a lengthy investigation into the company and Gibson’s former partner, Rod Ratcliff.
While not naming Gibson specifically, the seven-member Vigo County Council cited in its Sept. 22 letter Hard Rock’s “local member” and their contributions to the community.
This same local member worked hand in hand with our local leaders and legislators to pass House Enrolled Act 1015 and make the licensing of a casino in Vigo County possible,” the council wrote.
That law was passed by state lawmakers in 2019. Not only did it provide a land-based casino license for Vigo County, ratified by local voters that November, it also legalized sports betting across the state.
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