Terre Haute casino set for spring opening, regulators say

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Indiana’s next casino—borne in an unsavory deal that’s already resulted in one guilty plea—is expected to open in spring 2024, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

The Terre Haute Casino Resort, developed by Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc., is on track for an early April debut, Deputy Director Jenny Reske said Monday, while an associated hotel will open later.

“We’ve made sure that we facilitated all of the things they needed to do on the timeline they needed,” Reske said. “We never want to be the reason to hold up a casino from opening. Things are moving right along.”

The commission, which regulates Indiana’s gambling industry, remains under two U.S. Department of Justice subpoenas. Governments use subpoenas to compel recipients to give testimony or produce evidence, with penalties if the recipients fail to comply.

“We will continue to cooperate,” Reske said. “We very much admire the Department of Justice and the things they’re doing … to fight public corruption and will continue to be as supportive as we can.”

Indiana’s industry has been rocked by recent scandals. One 2016 campaign finance scheme involved casino money and two former lawmakers: Brent Waltz and John Keeler. They were sentenced in 2022, although Waltz has since asked to overturn the sentence.

Another former lawmaker, Sean Eberhart, pleaded guilty last month in a quid pro quo: legislation favoring Spectacle Entertainment’s efforts to build casinos in Terre Haute and Gary, in exchange for a lucrative job and equity.

In reaction to Eberhart’s plea, legislative leaders have called off gambling expansions for at least the next session. The industry has for several years sought to legalize internet gambling.

Reske said the agency wasn’t preparing for imminent passage—in line with lawmakers’ public ban—but was familiarizing itself with the topic to avoid being caught off guard.

“We’ll continue to develop expertise on this. We’re regulatory professionals; we understand that we sometimes need to rise to the challenge of new legislation,” Reske said. “… So we’ll continue to focus on learning, on being up to the task, if the legislation does pass.”

Construction on the $290 million Terre Haute resort began in June 2022. The venue will feature a 400,000-square-foot casino building with 56,000 square feet of gaming space that includes 1,000 slots and 50 table games, as well as a 125-room hotel.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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