casino rendering

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This artist's rendering, provided by Spectacle Entertainment LLC, shows one vision of a casino for Terre Haute's east side near Interstate 70. Spectacle says the rendering is conceptual only and not a site-specific proposal.

Vigo County voters likely will vote on a casino referendum in the fall.

Members of the Vigo County Election Board on Friday discussed how that can happen and at what cost. While no formal decision was reached, each of the three voting members said they prefer to have the referendum in the fall.

"We would like to get it done in November. That is our goal and that is where are headed with it," Vigo County Clerk Brad Newman, a member of the Election Board, said after the meeting.

"We have started the process, talking with people, trying to get some [voting] locations on the outskirts so that the county residents all don't have to come in the city to vote," Newman said.

"We are going to have it set where the early voting centers are open for 30 days like we have done before and have started the conversation north, south, east and west outside the city limits to accommodate county and be responsible as how we handle it," Newman said. "I don't think it will be huge tax burden to anybody.

"I think, with our plan, the way we have set up it, this will be pretty easy for us to do," Newman said. "We have already set up the budgeting. We have put ourselves in a good position so we can accommodate the county residents."

During the meeting, Newman said early estimates show the additional cost at about $50,000.

Some new locations have been set, such as the use of the Vigo County Solid Waste District office on Haythorne Avenue. The Vigo County Solid Waste Management District on Thursday voted to approve the site for voting from Oct. 2 to Nov. 6. Election Day is Nov. 5.

The Election Board had 11 votes centers for the spring primary election. The board had 21 vote centers in the 2018 election, which was countywide.

Board President Kara Anderson said she prefers to have the centers, in the county only, open just on election day as county residents only have to address one issue — voting yes or no on the question, "Shall inland casino gambling be permitted in Vigo County?"

Anderson said she thinks a fall election is best for a casino referendum, as the county expects the 2020 presidential election to be heavily attended.

"I say go for it," in November, said Cindy Andrews, a member of the Election Board. "If you got to do it, you got to do it and get it over with."

Anderson said the board will have to modify its vote center plan for the fall election, as required by law. The legislation passed for the casino states the county shall conduct a referendum.

The Election Board intends to meet again on the topic, likely in mid June.

Newman said he ideally would like to have a formal decision completed prior to the end of June.

The Indiana General Assembly this spring adopted and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a sweeping gaming bill that would allow a casino license in Vigo County -- if voters OK a casino.

Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment is expected to apply to the Indiana Gaming Commission for permission to move its operation out of Buffington Harbor in Gary.

Once Spectacle triggers the process by asking to leave its current home on the Lake Michigan harbor — and if Vigo County voters OK a casino here — the Indiana Gaming Commission would then begin accepting applications from potential operators.

The gaming commission would ultimately determine who operates a casino.

State legislation says a casino project in Vigo County must be a minimum investment of $100 million, 35 percent of which to be spent on non-gaming amenities.

Legislation caps the total number of games in a Vigo Casino at 1,500.

A Vigo County casino is projected to create construction jobs and 400 or more casino jobs.

While the state legislation doesn’t spell out how the tax revenue can be used or even offer a projection of how many millions might be collected, it does break down how tax benefits are to be distributed.

• 40 percent will go to the city of Terre Haute.

• 30 percent will go to Vigo County.

• 15 percent will go to the Vigo County School Corp.

• An additional 15 percent will go to West Central 2025, a regional economic development initiative led by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

Spectacle Entertainment announced in November, 2018 it had merged with Majestic Holdco and acquired its subsidiaries, Majestic Star and Majestic Star II, located at Buffington Harbor in Gary, Indiana. Principal investors in Spectacle are Rod Ratcliff, former Chairman and CEO of Centaur Gaming, and Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson.

Gibson acknowledged this week if Spectacle Entertainment gets the casino license, his ideal planned location is in the midst of commercial development along the U.S.40/Indiana 46 corridor adjacent to Interstate 70.

Another contender for the license might be Full House Resorts, owner of Rising Star Casino and Resort in Rising Sun, Indiana. It has several times expressed an interest in establishing a Terre Haute operation.

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

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