A political action committee advocating for a new casino in Terre Haute on Monday presented a February 2019 study on gaming in Indiana that projects a Terre Haute casino would have a one-time $80 million impact from construction alone.

A casino here could create 650 full-time jobs and 140 part-time jobs and have more than 819,000 gaming visits annually, according to the study, which was prepared for the the Casino Association of Indiana.

Additionally, that study projects a total total annual economic output of more than $180 million.

The study was conducted by the The Innovation Group for the Casino Association of Indiana and is titled, "Indiana Statewide Gaming Market Assessment and Economic Impact Analysis."

John Collett, chairman of the pro-casino Advance West Central Indiana Political Action Committee, highlighted parts of that study during a news conference this morning.

"That is almost 800 jobs for our community. I think that is amazing, and I can't think of any other opportunity that we had in the recent past that event comes close to this," Collett said.

"Bottom line, a casino in Terre Haute, Indiana creates hundreds of jobs, even more than projected by some others. And in fact, (it) generates tens of millions of dollars in economic benefit to Vigo county," said Matt Bell, president and CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana.

Data from the study, Bell said, was used during the legislative debate on a new land-based casino in Gary and one in Terre Haute, which was proposed by Spectacle Entertainment, whose lead owners are Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson and former Centaur Gaming CEO Rod Ratcliff.

The General Assembly has specified a minimum $100 million investment for potential operators of a Terre Haute casino. Also, 35 percent of the investment must be earmarked for amenities that do not directly relate to gaming.

Some money from state wagering and supplemental wagering taxes would go back in the community, with 40 percent to the city of Terre Haute; 30 percent to Vigo County; 15 percent to the Vigo County School Corporation; and another 15 percent to West Central 2025, an economic development effort spearheaded by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

The Indiana Gaming Commission will accept applications and proposals for a Vigo County casino operation until December 1. The commission will not take action on the casino applications until Vigo County residents have voted Nov. 5 on a referendum question that asks, “Shall inland casino gambling be permitted in Vigo County?”

Spectacle is expected to be one applicant for a casino in Terre Haute. Full House Resorts also has expressed interest in operating a Terre Haute-area casino.

More study figures

The study lists job wages, salaries and tips at more than $26.6 million for Terre Haute. Taxes and benefits are more than $7.9 million. The total compensation impact is more than $34.5 million.

"If you look at the community as a whole, not just the casino, the direct and indirect jobs amount to 1,300 jobs. The total impact of the casino at $168 million," Collett said.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is we get people to get out and vote in this election and ... vote yes on referendum question number one," Collett said.

The study puts total jobs at 1,257 in Vigo County, and annual total economic output of more than $168.3 million. The study shows another 82 jobs outside of the county with total impact to the state of 1,339 new jobs and total economic output of more than $183.6 million.

Timing and location

With a casino at Danville, Illinois, the study shows the direct effect for Vigo County's gross gaming revenue at more than $106 million. Without a casino at Danville, gross gaming revenue jumps to more than $135.9 million. Also without a casino in Danville, employment in Terre Haute would increase to 928, from 793.

Bell said it is important for Terre Haute to start its casino first.

"We believe west central Indiana and Vigo County is viable regardless of what happens across our western border (in Illinois, which expanded gaming statewide)," Bell said. "But we think you have a unique opportunity and that is to get out the vote, support this referendum on Nov. 5 and make Indiana the first to market," he said.

"We think when we do that, we create patterns for folks to discover this community first. And once they do, we believe that folks will continue to be in this community and make this their gaming location of choice," Bell said.

The study states locating next to Interstate 70 would attract visitors from out of the Terre Haute area.

"Location is always an impact," Bell said. "I think that as your community decides where the right location is, some of the factors it has to consider is what makes sense in terms of the local economy, but then what is accessible, what is visible and what is easy for folks to find as they are passing through I-70, a tremendous transportation corridor that your community benefits from," Bell said.

"We believe the proximity there will have a very positive impact and it will help attract folks who may not be aware of all the great things that are happening in this community," Bell said. "It will be a great gateway or entry into the city if it is in proximity there, but that is a local decision," Bell said.

Impact on crime, policing

Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen said he began in 2016 to review the impact on crime and crime rates if a casino where to locate in the city.

"While studies in general can only tell you what happened under certain conditions, they are usually a pretty good indicator of what you can expect. We reviewed a number of peer review studies of casinos and crime. Probably the biggest importance to me was there was an analysis looking at all of the studies between 2005 and 2010 and the majority of those studies indicated that there was no effect on the crime rate with a casino being present," Keen said.

"Two of those studies took place in Indiana," Keen said. "So for me, we looked at there was no real indication that we could expect a big crime increase outside of what you would expect from any other population increase."

Teamwork in policing -- such as that shown by Indiana State, city and Vigo County police at ISU's recent homecoming -- would be important, the chief said.

"I think any challenge moving forward I think we would agree we would handle those as a team," Keen said. "I fell confident, especially with the question of crime with a casino, that we don't look to have any significant increases by a casino's presence," Keen said.

Vigo Sheriff John Plasse said the city and county police departments will work together, adding he "has no reservations going forward on a casino being located here."

State Sen. John Ford said the study confirms "that bringing a casino will have a strong economic impact for our economy. It is over $30 million in payroll in our community by a private investor and well over $100 million in construction investment by a private investor. It has been a long time since we have had this type of opportunity in Terre Haute. None of this can happen if we don't get out and vote."

Ford, R-Terre Haute, was co-author with state Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, of a sweeping gaming bill, provisions of which opened the door for a Terre Haute casino.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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