Indiana’s gaming regulator has denied a license renewal for a new casino in Terre Haute, while Caesars can maintain ownership of its Horseshoe Hammond Casino outside of Chicago. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
A busy day for the IGC
The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) has provided rulings regarding two casinos in the state, denying the renewal of one facility’s license and canceling the forced sale of another.
In a blow to its owner Lucky Luck Gaming, a new Terre Haute casino in Vigo County will not have its gaming license renewed by the regulator, according to a ruling delivered Thursday. The IGC approved the new $125m gambling venue in May last year, but delays and forced ownership changes have marred the project since then.
We’re now a year and a half into this process and still talking about things that are prospective in nature”
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Commissioners noted that Lucky Luck had not yet hired an executive team to run the casino or secured full financing despite the project being more than a year old. “We’re now a year and a half into this process and still talking about things that are prospective in nature,” commented IGC director Sarah Tait.
Elsewhere, the Horseshoe Hammond Casino near Chicago will remain in the hands of Caesars Entertainment. The IGC has rescinded an order from last year which would have forced the operator to sell the property. Instead, the regulator has decided that Caesars’ ownership will benefit the casino and economy of the surrounding area.
The tumultuous Terre Haute project
After Indiana voters approved the development of a casino in the Terre Haute area in 2019, operator Spectacle Jack announced plans to open its new $125m property in September 2021. However, before approving the casino’s incense, the Commission forced two top executives to give up their ownership stake in the project due to a federal investigation.
Rod Ratcliff and John Keeler, two executives for Spectacle Jack parent company Spectacle Entertainment, gave up their ownership stake in the new casino in May 2020. A federal plea alleged that the two men funneled campaign contributions to a congressional candidate in Indiana in 2015 through their former gaming company, Centaur Gaming.
Lucky Luck Gaming chairman Greg Gibson ultimately took over leadership of the project, and Hard Rock International told the IGC in May that it had secured an agreement to run the new property. As a result of delays, casino officials pushed back the groundbreaking until June or early July this year, with an opening set for fall 2022.
Questions remained over the project’s financing however. The casino’s license was due to expire in May, but the IGC voted to delay its decision over the renewal until it had received sufficient financial information. The body voted not to provide that renewal in its ruling this Thursday, noting that a licensee “must present the necessary evidence to demonstrate it meets all the required standard, qualifications, and criteria to hold a license.”
A U-turn on Horseshoe Hammond
In completing its $17.3bn merger with Caesars Entertainment last year, Eldorado Resorts gained four additional properties in Indiana. As a result, the combined company, known now as just Caesars Entertainment, held five of the state’s 13 casinos. The IGC deemed this an “undue economic concentration” of Indiana’s gaming industry, and ordered the operator to divest three of those properties, including the Horseshoe Hammond Casino outside of Chicago.
Since then, Caesars has entered into agreements for the sale of the Tropicana Evansville and Caesars Southern Indiana. However, the operator has maintained that it is the most suitable candidate to operate the Horseshoe Hammond. With the help of Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr, Caesars CEO Tom Reeg asked the IGC to reconsider its decision in regards to the casino earlier this month.
a takeover by a less experienced operator might prove detrimental to the economy
In another Thursday ruling, the regulator decided to rescind its order for Caesars to sell the casino. The Commission noted “uncertainty regarding the Chicago market” and the impact of COVID-19. In light of these challenges, the IGC said the community is concerned that a takeover by a less experienced operator might prove detrimental to the economy of the local area.
Commenting on the decision, Caesars CEO Reeg expressed confidence that the IGC had made the right choice. “We are confident that our continued operating of the Horseshoe Hammond is in the best interest of our team members, guests, the Hammond community, and the state of Indiana,” he said.