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Senate panel fails to advance Terre Haute casino bill

February 15, 2017

An Indiana Senate panel on Wednesday did not advance a bill that would have allowed a casino to open in Terre Haute.

Republican state Sen. Jon Ford’s bill would have moved gambling slots from the Rising Star casino near Cincinnati to Terre Haute, his district, and allowed for the construction of a new gaming facility there.

But the 5-5 vote in the Senate Public Policy Committee was not enough to move the bill to be considered by the full Senate. With a committee deadline looming, that could kill the bill, although the idea could be revived in other legislation.

Still, Ford expressed disappointment but seemed resigned to the proposal's death this year.

"I’m glad we started this conversation and I will continue to advocate for ways to boost our local economy and bring more jobs to Terre Haute," Ford said in a written statement. "Although [Senate Bill] 354 did not go as far as I would have liked to see, I am thankful for the support I have received from leaders and residents of our community.”

Committee Chairman Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said he voted no because he was concerned about “the big picture” of gambling policy in the statealthough he said it was clear that the law was good public policy for Full House Resorts Inc., which owns Rising Star, and for Terre Haute.

“I haven’t seen enough facts to look at you in the eyes and say is that good public policy for the state or is it bad public policy for the state," Alting said.

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, said the project would set a “terrible precedent.”

“It benefits one casino company to the detriment of many others,” Becker said.

However, proponents said they voted for the proposal because of the economic development that it could have meant forTerre Haute.

“To me it boils down to the fact that we’re activating 740 gambling games to promote economic development,” said Sen. Ron Grooms, R-New Albany.

Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-Gary, said he voted for the bill because of the “possibility and hope it gives other cities and towns” who think they could benefit from gambling.

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