Casino front view rendering

Front view: This is a photo of a rendering of the exterior of a proposed new Rocksino by Hard Rock in Terre Haute.

Prospective Terre Haute casino operator Spectacle Entertainment on Tuesday morning briefed Vigo County officials on a proposed $125 million casino that would be located on 22 acres south of Walmart East next to Holiday Inn Express.

John Keeler, a Spectacle vice president, said the casino would be called the “Rocksino by Hard Rock,” would be 100,000 square feet and employ about 600 workers if the company is awarded the state casino license.

The Rocksino would include sports betting, a 300-seat entertainment theater called The Velvet Lounge, a buffet, a cafe, bars, a steak house and other features, Keeler said.  

A new limited liability corporation called Spectacle Jack LLC would be the owner of the casino, he said at the Vigo County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The Indiana Gaming Commission is accepting proposals from prospective casino operators through Dec. 2. Applying for the license requires a $50,000 fee, and the successful applicant would pay the commission a $5 million license fee.

The state has set a $100 million minimum investment on the part of the operator. The Gaming Commission will review applications and is expected to award the license in the first quarter of 2020.

Spectacle Entertainment and Full House Resorts both have publicly stated interest in operating a Vigo casino. Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson is one of the lead investors in and a vice president of Spectacle.

Also at the commissioners meeting, Terre Haute City Council President Martha Crossen and Kristin Craig, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, said a group was formed to consider a local development agreement with Spectacle.

That group included Crossen, Craig, county Board of Commissioners President Brad Anderson, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and County Council President Aaron Loudermilk. They met several times, including twice with Spectacle officials including Gibson and Keeler.

A local development agreement is one of the requirements set forth by the state law that allows a Terre Haute casino. 

Under the development agreement as now structured, a  five-member foundation board would distribute an estimated $3 million annually in casino funds. 

Crossen said the foundation board would have two casino owner representatives, but those members do have to be local residents. The other members would be a city council member appointed by the mayor of Terre Haute, one appointed by the president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the other a member of the Vigo County Council appointed by the president of the Board of Commissioners.

County commissioners are to meet again Dec. 2 to discuss the issue. A vote is expected. 

Crossen said she expects the distributing foundation to conduct its work in public, and she will ask that it provide an annual report to the City Council.

The money from the development agreement is the third leg of the local proceeds distribution.

The largest payment to local government is from a wagering tax, estimated to be about $4.6 million. This will go to the city of Terre Haute, if a casino is inside the city limits.

With an admissions tax -- a tax levied against the casino for each person who enters -- the Vigo County casino is estimated to generate more than $2.6 million. That money would be divided among:

• The city of Terre Haute, which would receive 40 percent, or more than $1 million.

• Vigo County government at 30 percent, or more than $780,000.

• Vigo County School Corp. at 15 percent, or more than $390,000.

• West Central 2025, a regional economic development effort through the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, at 15 percent or more than $390,000.

Keeler said Spectacle’s projections estimate local government proceeds and nonprofit distributions should total about $9 million to $10 million annually.

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

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