Development agreement between Vigo and Churchill Downs | News

Vigo County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a Local Development Agreement, one of the steps needed for Churchill Downs Inc. to establish a Vigo County Casino that will be located on the east side of Terre Haute.

The deal is almost identical to that offered previously under a Hard Rock “Rocksino” proposal, but Churchill Downs offers a higher percentage once a maximum amount is reached.

Under the agreement, Churchill Downs will donate 3% of its adjusted gross income up to $175 million to a new non-profit foundation called Queen of Terre Haute Foundation Inc. Churchill will donate 3.25% of any income above to $175 million to the foundation.

In addition, Churchill will donate 3% of the company’s adjusted gross taxable sports betting income to the foundation.

In its proposal to the Indiana Gaming Commission, Churchill Downs estimated that its Vigo County casino would generate $639.9 million in gross gaming revenue over the first five years. This is with a projection of 6.7 million people visiting the casino over those five years.

An economic impact study by economists at Purdue University estimates that the Queen of Terre Haute will generate $190 million in annual regional economic impact, including 1,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs. According to the study, the project is expected to result in a 2% annual increase in gross regional product in west-central Indiana.

As part of the local development agreement, the foundation will prioritize goals and pillars such as the See You in Terre Haute 2025 community plan as well as the West Central 2025 initiative. The foundation will focus on economic development; health and wellbeing; Infrastructure; quality of life; talent attraction/retention; and tourism.

The foundation will be governed by an eight-member board. The council comprises each of the three county commissioners or their delegate; two members including the Mayor of Terre Haute and/or appointees; two members of the casino or its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc.; and a member of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

R. Todd Thacker, business manager for IBEW Local No. 725 and councilor for Vigo County, questioned the House member’s addition to the founding board, saying all other members are government-related or at the casino.

Thacker expressed concern about the chamber’s advocates for for-profit corporations, instead of unions.

Commissioner Brendan Kearns said that while he offered to form a separate advisory group to bring his concerns to the House, he said the House’s See You in Terre Haute 2025 plan was developed by a broad group of not-for-profit organizations that advocate for issues ranging from homelessness to mental health.

Additionally, Kearns said the Board of Commissioners has a seat on the House Board of Directors, where commissioners can also raise concerns as needed.

After the meeting, Commissioners’ Chairman Chris Switzer said “the Local Development Agreement has been boosted by the See You in Terre Haute plan…and hopefully can move things along quickly as the income comes in,” he said.

Switzer said the deal is in addition to funding required by law when the Indiana General Assembly granted an indoor casino in Vigo County. The state will collect an additional betting tax, formerly known as the admission tax, from each person entering a casino. In 2019, this tax was expected to bring in more than $2.6 million.

The state treasurer would then distribute the tax collected in the previous calendar quarter, with 40% (of the projected $2.6 million) going to the city of Terre Haute; 30% in the department of Vigo; 15% at Vigo County School Corp. ; and 15% to West Central 2025 from the Chamber.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @TribStarHoward.

Sara H. Byrd