Spectacle VP says the company is ready to compete for Terre Haute as casino bill moves forward

Now, both houses must approve the measure before it reaches the governor's desk for his signature.

Posted: Apr 22, 2019 3:03 PM
Updated: Apr 22, 2019 5:52 PM

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHI) - A new, and possibly final version of an Indiana gaming bill has come out of a conference committee.

Now, both houses must approve the measure before it reaches the governor's desk for his signature.

But what changed?

First, the bill's name changed from Senate Bill 552 to House Bill 1015.

State law requires any bills with changes to the tax code come out of the House.

This bill allows Spectacle Entertainment to move its two Gary, Indiana casinos off of Lake Michigan.

If it chooses to do so, it must pay a $20 million fee.

The company must also give up a license to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

That license will come to Terre Haute IF local voters pass it in a referendum.

The gaming commission would hold a competitive bid process for that license.

A Vigo County advisory committee would help the commission select an operator.

After hearing this news, we wanted to know how officials at Spectacle Entertainment felt about the bill.

The House Public Policy Committee first introduced a fee for Spectacle Entertainment to pay if it chose to move its licenses inland.

Senator Mark Messmer said it was essential to reduce that fee from $100 million to what it is now, which is the $20 million, and the license fee reduced from $10 million to $2 million.

"Both of those fees I felt were really too high, and didn't have any historical precedent across the country to justify," Messer said.

Sources told News 10 a fee of $100 million likely would have forced Spectacle to leave its casinos where they currently are, which is Buffington Harbor, in Gary.

We asked Spectacle's Vice President, John Keeler, how the company feels about this version of the bill.

"We're happy with it. We think it made a lot of progress. We're heading in the right direction, and we appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into it," Keeler said.

We also asked Keeler how the company felt about losing the second license.

"That's the game we've been handed, right? Those are the rules and we're comfortable with that."

Keeler told us it was Spectacle's plan all along, to bring a casino to Terre Haute, so you can expect them to be involved in the competitive bid process if voters approve a casino by referendum.

"We're willing to live with what they give us, and compete for Terre Haute," Keeler said.

That referendum could happen this fall or next spring, and it's not all bad for Spectacle.

The state will offer the company 10 years worth of tax credits...starting with $10 million in year one, $9 million in year two, and so forth.

Both Spectacle and Full House Resorts have shown an interest in a Terre Haute casino.

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