Some members of the Vigo County business community are asking people to ante up in support of a casino.
Many of the same business leaders involved in the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce’s “all in” campaign on Tuesday announced the formation of the Advance West Central Indiana Political Action Committee.
The PAC will be involved in “informing and educating the community” about a casino, said John Collett, committee chairman and also head of the local chamber’s casino advocacy efforts.
Following passage of state legislation opening the door for a Terre Haute casino, advocates felt they needed to treat community advocacy “like a campaign, as if we were running for mayor,” Collett said.
Advocates “didn’t feel that the chamber was the correct avenue for a PAC,” he said.
While the committee has yet to establish a firm fundraising goal, Collett said it will take six figures to “do it the right way” with polling and dissemination of facts about a casino and its impact.
Indiana law does not limit or prohibit contributions to public questions, the PAC notes on its website, www.CasinoTerreHaute.com.
Gaming operators and other political action committees, among others, are free to make unlimited contributions to public questions, the site says.
The PAC has received “some interest” from gaming operators Spectacle Entertainment and Full House Resorts, both of which are expected to seek a license in Vigo County, Collett said.
John Keeler, general counsel with Spectacle, did not return a phone message left Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.
Local businessman Greg Gibson is a principal partner in Spectacle Entertainment along with longtime gaming executive Rod Ratcliff. Gibson also is a founding partner, with Rachel J. Leslie, of RJL Solutions, a Terre-Haute based lobbying and public relations firm that’s worked with the chamber on the ballot question and which sent out Tuesday’s news release announcing formation of the PAC.
Unions, particularly in building trades, will be solicited along with other businesses and individuals, according to Collett.
“The fact that we had to battle other casino communities so hard at the statehouse in order for us to bring a casino to Terre Haute was incredibly telling,” Brian Koostra, the political action committee’s secretary, said in a news release.
“Casinos are an important asset that communities will fight vigorously to protect. It was clear those casinos were a valuable resource for their local communities. I want that for Terre Haute, too,” Koostra said.
The organization’s news release said the PAC will educate the community about a casino’s prospective 400 jobs, revenue streams for local governments and spinoff development.
It will also ask Vigo County residents to “Vote yes on #1,” Collett said in a reference to the casino question being the first of what will likely be two referendums on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The second issue would be a proposed property tax increase to support a $7 million annual hike in school operating revenue for each of the next eight years.
“In an ideal world, we would rather just have the one referendum,” Collett said. “I don’t think they fight each other. With the school corporation, they’re asking for revenue and we’re just asking should we have a casino that generates revenue.”
Sara Smith, the PAC’s treasurer, said the campaign is based on three major themes.
“It’s about educating the voter base, helping them understand the short term and long term benefits a casino can bring to a community and impacting positive change for the future,” Smith said. “This is our opportunity to attract critical resources to strengthen the entire community
Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.