Casinos are making moves in Indiana.
The Indiana Gaming Commission voted Wednesday to allow the operator of Gary’s two casinos to relocate the properties inland, setting up the possibility for a casino near Terre Haute.
Spectacle Entertainment, which owns Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II on Buffington Harbor in Gary, has been hoping to close the riverboats and construct a new casino in Gary along the Interstate 80/94 corridor since acquiring the casinos last year.
Legislation passed earlier this year and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb allowed Spectacle to proceed with its plans for a new $300 million casino, but the relocation also required approval from the gaming commission.
Spectacle must pay the state a total of $20 million over five years for the move and surrender the other casino license.
John Keeler, general counsel for Spectacle, told the commission on Wednesday that the project will be completed in phases. The first phase will include the 225,000-square-foot casino, and the second phase will include a 200-room hotel and parking garage.
Spectacle is partnering with Florida-based Hard Rock Cafe International Inc. on the casino, which is expected to offer up to 2,764 gaming positions and multiple restaurants and entertainment options, including a Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live concert venue.
The goal is to open by Dec. 31, 2020, Keeler said.
Gaming commission board member Joseph Svetanoff called it a “fantastic” project that will transform gambling in northwest Indiana.
“I’m extremely excited about what the future holds for this project,” Svetanoff said.
As for the license that Spectacle is relinquishing, it is expected to be used for a new casino in Vigo County, where Terre Haute is located.
The gaming commission will accept applications for that license, but Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait said Wednesday that it has not received any yet. The deadline is Dec. 1.
Tait said the commission won’t allow private meetings with parties interested in the license but will take questions and provide answers publicly.
“It is our intent to conduct this entire process publicly,” Tait said.
The selected operator will have to pay a $5 million fee for the license, and law requires a minimum investment of $100 million. The number of gaming positions is capped at 1,500.
Vigo County voters also have to approve a referendum allowing the casino before any project would be allowed to move forward. Tait said that referendum is expected to be on November ballot.