TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Vigo county leaders are doubling down on efforts to secure a new casino as another community, just an hour away, is upping the ante.
There are just 60 miles between Terre Haute, Indiana and Danville, Illinois. Both communities are working toward the same goal: getting a casino.
Leaders in both Terre Haute and Danville have been trying to get a casino for several years and both have been unsuccessful until this year.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law allowing six communities, including Danville, to apply with the gaming board. In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law allowing new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.
These were huge moves for both communities but it's just the start. Now leaders in Danville and Terre Haute say they aren't leaving this process up to chance and they're closely watching what’s happening across the state line.
Vermilion Development CEO Dave Cocagne says, "It may be a race and I think we are planning for the eventuality that Terre Haute has a casino."
News 10’s Heather Good traveled to Danville, Illinois for a city council meeting where the public learned more about plans for a casino.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. and the public heard from Dave Cocagne. Cocagne is the CEO of Vermilion Development and is helping the city navigate the casino application process which is much different than the process across the state line in Indiana.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr. says, "The state law that was passed says that the application has to be received by the gaming board within 120 days so that's where we are kind of under the gun to get this accomplished."
Danville has until October 28th to get a hundred million dollar casino project ready to go and apply to the Illinois Gaming Board.
Mayor Williams says, "Everything has to be done or we lose out on a tremendous economic development opportunity for our community and we simply can't afford to do that."
This means Danville will have a plan in place before Vigo County voters even decide if they want a casino in Terre Haute. That vote isn't until November 5th.
Williams says, "I'm hoping that maybe we've got a little bit of a competitive edge."
Still, the Illinois Gaming Board has 12 months to decide if it will approve Danville’s plan.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says, "The process, you know, so they don't have to have a referendum, I get that. But they still have to go through a process of bidding it out and having the gaming commission decide and in my opinion, the gaming commission’s probably going to focus on the bigger casinos first because it's more lucrative for the state of Illinois."
In Terre Haute, a political action committee has been created to promote the casino referendum. The Advance West Central Indiana PAC is starting a campaign to get Vigo County voters to say yes to a casino.
Mayor Bennett says, "I love that fact that the locals can decide, do you want this or not? And then you need to live with that decision."
Mayor Williams says, "We will certainly be watching those election returns with anticipation."
If Vigo County voters approve the referendum, then the Indiana Gaming Commission could select Spectacle Entertainment as the Terre Haute casino operator. The casino would then be built just north of Interstate 70 on State Road 46 and branded as a Hard Rock casino. People with the project hope the prestige of the Hard Rock brand would give Terre Haute the competitive edge.
A site for the Danville casino has already been selected. It will be right along the state line and visible from Interstate 74 to attract the most visitors.
Williams says, "We are proceeding as if Terre Haute will obtain a casino so what that does is maybe adjusts the number of gaming positions that we have. For example, there's a maximum of 2,000. Well, without a Terre Haute casino maybe we would go towards that upper limit but because it's a possibility maybe we reduce the number of seats that we have. So, I think it's just making some adjustments in terms of our offerings and also our revenue projections."
Cocagne says, "We're looking at, you know, what revenue and patronage might be with a Terre Haute casino so obviously those numbers will tick down a bit as a result but we're trying to account for that as we look at the forecast as far as revenues for the facility, tax revenues for the city, etc. And just be realistic about it."
Williams says he does think both casinos can be successful.
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Leaders in both Danville and Terre Haute ultimately have the same goals: more jobs, more visitors and more money for the city and state.
Mayor Williams says he hopes to make the Danville casino a destination for families, too by including features like a water park in the overall plan.
Plans in Terre Haute cannot move forward until the November election.
Mayors in both communities say they do not want to miss out on this economic development opportunity.
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