Terre Haute Casino Bill, Which Wasn't All Bad For Rising Sun, Dies In Committee

By Mike Perleberg Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun. File photo. (Indianapolis, Ind.) - Plans to move slots and table games from the casino in Rising Sun to a proposed new facility in Terre Haute were scrapped by Indiana lawmakers Wednesday. Western Indiana lawmakers and the owner of Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun were lobbying for the new casino. Republican State Senator John Ford’s legislation, Senate Bill 354, would have authorized Full House Resorts to move up to half of its state-approved slots and tables from Rising Sun to a planned entertainment venue in Vigo County. The bill was up for a vote in the Senate Public Policy Committee. The 5-5 vote was just one vote short of passing the legislation on to the Senate floor. State Senator Vaneta Becker (D-Evansville) voted against the bill saying it would hurt the Tropicana casino in her city.  Tropicana is in the process of building a land-based gaming facility in Evansville under a change lawmakers approved a couple years ago. “First of all, it benefits one casino company to the detriment of many others,” Becker said. No Indiana casinos license holder has ever been permitted to split its games between two locations. Rising Sun Mayor Brent Bascom said he initially worried about SB 354, but warmed up to it after speaking with Full House Resorts officials and the city’s statehouse lobbyist. Local State Senator Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) signed on as a co-author of the bill, signaling his support. “There was a concern about local job losses, but the bill did have protections for Rising Sun,” said Bascom, who believes Full House Resorts is committed to the city. Alex Stolyar, an executive with Full House Resorts, told the Senate committee on February 1 that the company is investing $6 million in improvements including a luxury RV park and a ferry boat on the Ohio River between Rising Sun and Rabbit Hash. “We’re such an integral part of Ohio County and the City of Rising Sun that it’s important for us to succeed there,” Stolyar said. The city plan commission approved a planned unit development for the casino’s RV park on Monday, according to Bascom. Full House is still working to obtain permissions from state and federal agencies before it can begin operating the ferry boat, perhaps later this year. Stolyar explained that with many of Rising Star’s games going unused, the casino has the lowest win-per-unit number in the state. “We really do have excess capacity. There are other operators that have excess capacity as well, but none of them are in as dire a situation as we are and it is important to the community at the risk of staying profitable. Because of that, we are looking to invest in Indiana. Not in Illinois, not in Ohio, not in Kentucky. Not in neighboring states,” said Stolyar. Senate Bill 354 is not the only casino gaming-related bill lawmakers have been kicking the tires on during the 2017 legislative session. House Bill 1350 would change up the way casinos are taxed and reduce the hold harmless money the state pays to casino host cities and counties. It passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday by a 15-5 vote and may receive a vote on the House floor next week. Bascom said the bill is part of an effort by some state lawmakers to chip away at local gaming revenues. “That revenue has allowed us to invest in this corner of the state without having to ask the state. Southeastern Indiana has invested in itself with infrastructure, roads and sewer,” said Bascom. Bascom, a Democrat, has credited State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) on his work addressing HB 1350’s potential impact on casino communities. “He’s just one guy out of 100, but every budget session people from those gaming cities come together to protect the money,” said Bascom. RELATED STORIES: Rising Star Game Relocation Bill Gets A Statehouse Hearing Support Building To Relocate Some Rising Star Casino Games To Terre Haute Lawmaker Suggests Moving Some Rising Star Casino Games To Terre Haute Full House Resorts Loses Out On Indianapolis Casino Bid  

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