Terre Haute Casino may have experienced a few setbacks early in its days of joining the list of Indiana casinos, but the project remains on track to open early next year.
“The casino is still scheduled to be open at the end of the first quarter of 2024,” Terre Haute Casino General Manager Mike Rich told PlayIndiana.
A fit for western Indiana
Upon its completion, the $290 million project will offer a slew of resort amenities, including a 122-room luxury hotel, five restaurants and six bars. The 56,000-square-foot gaming floor will feature 1,000 slots and video poker machines, 35 table games and a TwinSpires retail sportsbook.
These figures will make Terre Haute Casino one of the smallest in the state but comparable to other casinos in the southwest part of Indiana, like Bally’s Evansville and French Lick Casino. Of course, these properties benefit from their proximity to Kentucky, where commercial casino gambling remains illegal.
Nonetheless, Terre Haute sits on I-70 between Saint Louis and Indianapolis, a little over an hour west of the latter. The casino’s size is just right for the combination of its interstate traffic and roughly 60,000 residents. It doesn’t need to compete with giants like Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana and Horseshoe Hammond to be successful.
A journey full of hurdles
Terre Haute Casino’s origins date back to 2019 when Vigo County began looking at casino gambling. The three-year process culminated in March 2022 when Churchill Downs was approved to start construction on what was then called the Queen of Terre Haute.
It planned to break ground in May with an estimated 13-month construction time and a prospective opening date in late 2023.
However, it found its first delay after changing sites to the city’s east side. Local officials approved the move to allow the casino’s future home to sit on a 50-acre plot off Interstate 70 and State Road 46. The delay caused the groundbreaking to take place in June.
Then the new location brought another challenge. Its proximity to Terre Haute’s regional airport caused the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a study that further delayed construction.
The study concluded that the proposed hotel could cause flight path hazards, and Churchill Downs complied by changing its planned height from 150 feet to 141 feet and adding aviation warning lights to the top of the building. Ultimately, this pushed back the opening date to March 2024.
Now, the casino awaits approval from the Department of Homeland Security, a required prerequisite for erecting steel.
But this time, everything remains on schedule.
Indiana will be the 14th state for Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs is an established gaming company best known for the famed Kentucky racetrack, which bears its name. It owns and operates 13 racetracks across Kentucky, Virginia and New Hampshire, along with 12 casinos in 10 more states.
Terre Haute Casino is one of three ongoing projects for parent company Churchill Downs. The other two are Derby City Gaming in Downtown Louisville, Ky., and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Emporia, Virginia.
The casino’s construction has created an estimated 1,000 jobs in the area, and another 500 part-time and full-time employment opportunities will become available when it opens. Job openings are currently listed at the company’s site, which notes benefits such as a 401k plan with company match, insurance and company-paid disability plans, paid time off and tuition reimbursement.