Questioning the awarding of the license

Full House Resorts is suing the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) over the state gaming regulator’s decision to award a casino license to Churchill Downs. The casino company believes that the IGC’s decision on November 17 to give the Vigo County license to Churchill Downs should be changed. The goal of the lawsuit is to have the court declare that there was a violation of Indiana’s Open Door Law, as well as to have the court block Churchill Downs from getting the casino license.  

alleges that the IGC broke the state’s Open Door Law

This complaint was filed on Friday in the Marion County Superior Court, Indianapolis. It alleges that the IGC broke the state’s Open Door Law, citing the commission’s adjournment during the course of the license proposal hearing. According to Indiana state law, “a governing board may not conduct an Executive Session during a Meeting.”

The complaint outlines how the commission resumed the hearing after the mid-hearing executive session and proceeded to deny the application from Full House, favoring the Churchill Downs proposal. This was allegedly done without any explanation, discussion, comment, or public debate.

Comparing the proposals

In addition to the argument about the legality of the awarding of the license, Full House also believes that its proposal was better. It was planning to build its American Place casino for $250m, having gotten a “highly visible site” where about 11 million cars pass by each year.

Churchill Downs has proposed a casino site that is reportedly in a more private setting. It is planning to create a ten-story property for about $190m. This site is near a sewage treatment plant and a county prison. Full House believes that this project is not attractive because the rooftop bar would be overlooking the treatment facility.

Full House Resorts currently owns five casino properties in four states and was recently selected to develop and operate a new casino in Illinois.

The lawsuit claims that having a public entertainment venue in such a location “is counter-intuitive to any prudent, rational individual.” Churchill Downs has suggested an alternate site, but Full House claims that this is another rule violation because it was part of an attachment to Churchill’s hearing presentation, but the attachment was not publicly presented. The potential alternative casino site is close to the Terre Haute airport. Full House claims that state law says that an applicant can only propose a single location and cannot pitch multiple sites.

The plans of both companies

Full House Resorts and Churchill Downs were the final two applicants in a four-party race for the casino license. The Full House proposal includes a 100,000 square-foot gaming area that would have created 1,800 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. The proposal estimated that the casino would earn revenue of $811m over the course of five years from about eight million visitors.

The Churchill Downs proposal is to construct the Queen of Terre Haute casino. In addition to the casino, there would be a 125-room hotel and a retail sportsbook using the TwinSpires brand. The proposal stated that the project would create 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs. It forecasted $638.9m in gross gaming revenue over a five-year period from 6.7 million visitors.

Churchill Downs Incorporated owns and operates a number of racetracks and casinos across the US, as well as the TwinSpires online betting brand.

The IGC had originally awarded the Vigo County casino license to Lucy Luck Gaming LLC, but the regulator did not renew the license in 2021, leading to this recent application process. Lucy Luck has submitted an appeal to this move, with a hearing set to take place on February 17, 2022.

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