Terre Haute Casino On Schedule Amid Indiana Casino Corruption Scandal

Posted on December 14, 2023 - Last Updated on December 18, 2023

Indiana’s newest casino remains on track to open early next year. Despite some setbacks, developers are progressing with the new casino coming to Terre Haute. They are still on track to open during the spring of 2024.

While this is welcome news for Indiana gamblers, it doesn’t come without controversy.

The Indiana Gaming Commission plans to move forward with the grand opening of the newest Indiana casino. Meanwhile, there are ongoing questions surrounding a casino corruption scandal that has already seen a former state lawmaker pled guilty to a federal corruption charge.

IGC Deputy Director says the commission is cooperating with federal investigations

The IGC, which regulates Indiana’s gambling industry, remains under two US Department of Justice subpoenas involving a couple of high-profile corruption scandals. IGC Deputy Director Jenny Reske told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that the commission is completely transparent with the feds.

“We will continue to cooperate,” said Reske. “We very much admire the Department of Justice and the things they’re doing … to fight public corruption and will continue to be as supportive as we can.”

Corruption in the Hoosier State’s gambling industry is front and center after former state lawmaker Sean Eberhart pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.

Federal prosecutors accused Eberhart of taking a $350,000 salary from Spectacle Gaming. The payment guaranteed his support for Indiana sports betting legislation that benefited the operator. He is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

As a result, state lawmakers said they wouldn’t legalize online casinos during the 2024 legislative session. Reske said the commission is pushing back against the ban from lawmakers. However, members are familiarizing themselves with online casino operations in case it comes up again.

“We’ll continue to develop expertise on this. We’re regulatory professionals; we understand that we sometimes need to rise to the challenge of new legislation,” said Reske. “So we’ll continue to focus on learning, on being up to the task, if the legislation does pass.”

The feds also investigated a campaign finance scheme involving casino money and another former lawmaker. Feds prosecuted and sentenced longtime casino executive John Keeler and former state Senator Brent Waltz in 2022 for their role in a plot to illegally funnel gambling money into the lawmaker’s unsuccessful 2016 congressional bid.

Waltz received 10 months in federal prison for helping route about $40,000 in illegal contributions to his campaign and making false statements to the FBI. Keeler got two months in federal prison and a $55,000 fine.

Investigations won’t stop Terre Haute Casino from opening

The Terre Haute Casino is an ongoing project for its parent company, Churchill Downs. The IGC approved the $290 million project in November 2021.

Reske says the commission will move forward with doing what needs to be done to ensure the casino is legally ready to operate and welcome customers. She says the IGC won’t be the reason for any delays.

“We’ve made sure that we facilitated all of the things they needed to do on the timeline they needed,” said Reske. “We never want to be the reason to hold up a casino from opening. Things are moving right along.”

The venue is being set up at a 50-acre site on the east side of Terre Haute. Reske says construction of the casino is on track for a spring 2024 grand opening. She says the upcoming hotel will open later.

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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at PlayIndiana. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino, sports betting and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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