Terre Haute Casino Controversy Continues After Settlement

  • The Indiana Gaming Commission has reached a settlement with Lucky Luck Gaming to return the original licensing fee to the company in return for their surrendering of the license.
  • Full House Resorts has filed a request to stop the transfer of the license, claiming the Indiana Gaming Commission violated state law in their bid selection process.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The Indiana Gaming Commission has settled the first legal dispute that was preventing the construction of the planned Terre Haute casino; however, this may not be the end of the planned venue’s legal issues, as a new roadblock has been created that may further delay the casino’s construction and launch.

Indiana Gaming Commission Agrees To Settlement, License Awarded

On Tuesday, the Indiana Gaming Commission reached a settlement with Lucky Luck Gaming. The settlement ends the gaming company’s appeal of the Indiana Gaming Commission’s decision to not renew the company’s Lucky Luck Terre Haute license after they made no progress on the casino’s construction in over 13 months.

The settlement calls for the Indiana Gaming Commission to return Lucky Luck’s $5 million casino licensing fee and for Lucky Luck Gaming to relinquish their gaming license for the Terre Haute facility. Lucky Luck Gaming will also be required to drop any pending legal actions against the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Subsequently, the Indiana Gaming Commission issued the Terre Haute license to the Churchill Downs affiliate that won the bidding process last month. The issuance of the license is pending the commission’s receipt of the required $5 million licensing fee.

The company plans to build a 392,000-square foot casino featuring 50 table games, 1,000 slot machines, a 125-room luxury hotel, a sportsbook run by TwinSpires, a full bar, a full-service restaurant, and more. The project will cost the company an estimated $240 million to construct.

New Legal Challenge Surfaces

While the state’s settlement with Lucky Luck and the subsequent issuance of the casino license to the Churchill Downs associate are certainly steps in the right direction, a new issue has surfaced that may delay the construction and opening of the casino further.

Full House Resorts Inc., the second-place finisher in the bidding process for the Terre Haute casino license, has submitted a request to both a Marion County judge and a state administrative judge to halt the license transfer to the Churchill company.

Full House Resorts claims that the Indiana Gaming Commission acted in violation of the Indiana Open Door Law during the bidding process by recessing for an executive session during the Terre Haute license selection hearing. The company also argues that the Indiana Gaming Commission failed to consider the fact that the planned Churchill site would be placed in close proximity to a waste treatment plant, whereas Full House Resorts’ submission would not.

“The nature of a sewage treatment plant in such close proximity to a public entertainment venue is counterintuitive to any prudent, rational individual,” Full House said in its lawsuit.

Officials Up In Arms Over Move

Many government officials are not happy about the claims of government impropriety. This is magnified by the fact that since losing the Terre Haute bid, Full House Resorts has secured a license for a new casino in Waukegan – the company also maintains their operation of the Rising Star Casino, also in Indiana.

In particular, members of the Indiana Gaming Commission are quite upset by Full House Resorts’ claims. For example, Commission Chairman Michael McMains originally lobbied for Full House to receive the bid for the Terre Haute casino; however, McMains now believes he made a mistake by voting for the company.

“Important criteria that we consider when granting gaming licenses to licensees in the state of Indiana, based on Indiana law, is their character, their integrity, their reputation, their behavior,” McMains said. “And frankly, this action of filing these complaints can only be viewed by me as sour grapes. I think it’s vindictive, it’s malicious, I think it’s frivolous. I’m embarrassed for Full House for having done this….You will not prevail.”

Whether the move gains any traction in the courts remains to be seen, but Full House Resorts will likely have to face the Indiana Gaming Commission in the future – these legal maneuvers will not garner them any favors from the Commission, which oversees all gambling activity in the state, including casino gaming, sports betting, and online gambling.