Churchill Downs Finds New Site for $240M Terre Haute Casino Project

Posted on: February 7, 2022, 07:32h. 

Last updated on: February 7, 2022, 07:32h.

Churchill Downs Inc. has decided to alter its plans for a casino in Terre Haute, Ind. On Monday, the Louisville-based gaming company applied to rezone property on the east side of the west central Indiana city.

Queen of Terre HauteA rendering of the Queen of Terre Haute Casino that Churchill Downs Inc. plans to build in the Indiana city. On Monday, the Louisville-based gaming company announced it was seeking a new location for the $240 million development. (Image: Churchill Downs Inc.)

In November, the Indiana Gaming Commission picked CDI as its operator of choice for the state’s 13th commercially licensed casino. At that hearing, Churchill Downs officials proposed building the Queen of Terre Haute Casino on the opposite side of the city.

It was the only one of the four applicants that did not propose an east side location. However, CEO Bill Carstanjen told commissioners the company would consider a site off Interstate 70 on the other side of town.

In a statement Monday, Jason Sauer, vice president for corporate development for Churchill Downs Inc., said that the community also “encouraged” the company to build the casino on the other end of town.

We listened, and today we’re excited to start down the path to groundbreaking on a nearly 50-acre site that’s easily accessible from I-70 and State Road 46,” Sauer said in a statement. “With continued oversight from the Indiana Gaming Commission, we look forward to taking the final steps in order to make this project a reality, and we are prepared to deliver a true destination casino resort to Vigo County.”

The company said that the new location is not expected to change any other plans. Churchill Downs still expects to spend $240 million on the casino, which will include a 125-room hotel and a gaming floor with 1,000 slots and 50 table games. The company expects the Queen of Terre Haute to employ about 500 full- and part-time workers.

About the Rezoning Process

The property Churchill Downs seeks to build the Terre Haute casino is currently zoned for agricultural, according to WTHI-TV in Terre Haute.

Per the station’s report, the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals would need to approve a variance for the rezoning due to the planned height for the casino’s hotel. That’s expected to be discussed on March 2, with the rezoning request going before the Vigo County Area Plan Commission that night.

If the commission approves, it would go before the Terre Haute City Council the following night.

In a statement to Casino.org, the IGC said Churchill Downs has made it aware of its plans to build the casino at a new site. The commission will go over the proposal and discuss it at its next meeting. That’s scheduled to take place on March 8 in Indianapolis.

“The IGC supports CDI’s simultaneous work to secure both local and IGC approval,” the commission said in a statement.

The commission also reiterated that nothing in Indiana state law prevents Churchill Downs from pursuing another location.

Terre Haute’s Casino History

News of the rezoning application likely puts Terre Haute a step closer to a casino it and the surrounding area has sought for years. Indiana lawmakers approved a plan to award the community a casino license in 2019. That fall, voters in Vigo County voted overwhelmingly to support the plan.

In December 2019, Spectacle Entertainment was the only applicant for the license. It was likely to be approved within a couple of months. However, that process became delayed after IGC officials learned about Spectacle executives becoming tied to a federal investigation.

In May 2020, a revised Spectacle proposal – led by Terre Haute businessman and Spectacle co-founder Greg Gibson – was approved for the license. However, plans to build a Hard Rock Rocksino continued to stall as the new company Lucy Luck could not finalize financing or hire key personnel.

Last June, the IGC decided against renewing Lucy Luck’s license, which started the application process again. However, Gibson appealed the commission’s decision.

In December, the IGC and Lucy Luck reached a settlement ending the appeal. Gibson’s company received the $5 million fee for the casino license back to drop the case.

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By Eugene Moore
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