Casino operator proposes $650M development on airport site

Full House Resorts Inc., a Las Vegas-based company that owns Rising Sun Casino Resort in Indiana, wants to build a $650 million casino and retail complex on 135 acres near the old Indianapolis International Airport terminal, the company disclosed Monday in a development proposal.

The elaborate plans were submitted to the Indianapolis Airport Authority in time to beat a deadline for redevelopment proposals for the land, which previously was used as a parking lot for the former terminal.

The complex, called American Place, would contain Indiana's smallest casino, 1.2 million square feet of retail space, 200 condominiums, 25 high-end hotel suites, a conference and performance center, offices, a movie theater with moving seats and a health club.

The hotel suites would be the size of small houses and would be designed to draw "wealthy gamblers for a VIP experience," the proposal says.

The proposal also calls for a European-style square with a special-effects fountain at the center, surrounded by restaurants offering outdoor seating, and a large seasonal plaza, also surrounded by eateries and stores. The plaza would feature ice skating and a holiday market in the winter and a plant- and flower-filled garden the rest of the year.

A tram would provide transportation throughout the complex.

Full House said the development would result in roughly $85 million annually in new state and local taxes, and create about 4,000 permanent jobs, with 700 of those coming from the casino and the other 3,300 from the retail complex. About 2,000 workers would be needed during the project's three-year construction phase.

The publicly traded company would serve as the developer. It would like to lease the site from the airport authority under a long-term arrangement, starting at $5 million a year.
The plan, which would require approval from state lawmakers, faces an uphill road.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican-dominated Legislature have been opposed to almost any expansion of casino gambling in the state.

Full House said its plan would avoid an expansion by moving half of the 1,400 gambling machines and the 60 gambling tables in Rising Sun to Indianapolis.

Located in southeastern Indiana on the Ohio River, Rising Sun Casino has suffered a big loss in business ever since a casino in Cincinnati and two other gambling facilities opened in Ohio in 2013.
"We are not seeking the addition of a gaming license to the 13 that are already permitted under Indiana law," Full House said in its proposal. "We will simply seek permission to relocate some of the permitted gaming equipment to Indianapolis from Rising Sun, operating under the same license. The precedent of this is well established by the operations of the off-track-betting parlors as adjuncts to the licensed racetrack operations."

Full House said the development should have minimal impact on the racinos in Shelbyville and Anderson, the closest casinos to Indianapolis.

"Indiana has enjoyed gaming for almost 20 years, but to date, Indianapolis and Marion County have largely not been included in jobs and tax revenues generated by those casinos," Full House said. "This modestly sized, high-end casino would help rectify that, while being the economic engine for a much bigger and predominately non-gaming development."

Indianapolis-based Centaur Gaming, which operates the Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville, said the American Place development would hurt its business.

"Although the impact of a casino at the airport on Indiana’s gaming market is unknown, there is no doubt that it would have an adverse impact on Indiana’s growing and nationally recognized pari-mutuel horse racing industry," Centaur said in a written statement. "Combined, both Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino support the Indiana horse racing industry through dedicated annual contributions in excess of $55 million. These contributions continue to grow the sport of horse racing and provide significant direct and indirect benefits to Indiana’s agribusiness economy throughout all 92 Indiana counties."


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