ELIZABETH — Armed with approval from the Indiana Gaming Commission, Horseshoe Southern Indiana is now able to move its riverboat casino operations inland with the construction of an $85 million facility.
Caesars Entertainment Corp., the company that owns Horseshoe Southern Indiana, appeared before the IGC on Tuesday for permission for the project, which received unanimous approval.
"It seems like a terrific improvement and expansion of the facility, and I think it will be a real benefit for gaming, and that part of Indiana ..." said Michael McMains, the chair of the IGC.
At the meeting, board members said they were happy that Caesars was spending money in Indiana, although there were questions about flooding, according to newsgathering partner WAVE3. The casino will be elevated, and many of the issues with flooding will involve its access road, Ind. 111, said Jennifer Reske, the IGC's deputy director.
The inland casino, made possible by a 2015 law that allows riverboat casinos to move to dry land as long as they stay within their existing footprint, will connect to Horseshoe’s current pavilion, which houses restaurants and stores.
The 100,000-square foot casino will be one floor and include restaurants, an entertainment venue and retail outlets, according to a news release from Caesars.
“By moving the casino operations to a new building, we are able to give guests a fresh, new modern casino and an enhanced experience,” said Brad Seigel, senior vice president and general manager of the property, in a statement. “Integrating the food, entertainment and gaming outlets in one area builds upon the high quality-experience that guests expect from our property.”
The casino will have a “modern feel” with outdoor balconies and windows designed to let in natural light.
The project also includes renovations to Horseshoe’s existing meeting and convention space.
Caesars is in the final stages of design for the facility. Pending design and permitting approval, the casino is expected to open in the second half of 2019, with construction starting in June or early Summer.
Caesars received Harrison County Plan Commission approval for the casino back in January, but WAVE3 reported that the project was tentative at the time. The inland move appeared to be briefly in danger last month when Caesars realized it could be affected by a possible $50 million fee as a result of its purchase of two other Indiana casinos. But Caesars officials asked the IGC to place their request back on a special meeting agenda 15 days after canceling their original date. The fee issue will be addressed at a June IGC meeting.
McMains did not comment on the fee issue, saying he could only talk about Tuesday's IGC meeting.
Caesars did not present revenue and employment projections at the meeting, but Reske said that the case of the casino in Evansville moving inland showed that the process can create “significant” opportunities for increased revenues. IGC staff also believe that moving the casino gaming floor closer to parking and other amenities can increase patronage.
Siegel said in a statement that he was proud of Horseshoe’s 20-year history of operating in Indiana, as well as the millions of dollars and “hours of contribution” made to the communities in which the chain operates.
“This project further demonstrates our continued enthusiasm for and commitment to the State,” Siegel said. “We appreciate the Commission’s decision today and look forward to continuing our positive working relationships at the State and local level.”
McMains called Caesars a "very good" operator with facilities across the country. It speaks well for the state that the company wants to continue to help Indiana stay "on top of its game," he said.