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Work could start this summer on delayed Indiana Terre Haute casino

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Construction work could finally begin this summer on a planned new casino in Terre Haute although state officials have put off approval of financing for the project that has faced delays and forced ownership changes.

The casino’s groundbreaking could happen in late June or early July, with an opening by fall 2022, Hard Rock International executive Jon Lucas told the Indiana Gaming Commission on Tuesday.

Hard Rock has reached an agreement with Lucy Luck Gaming, the new casino’s ownership group, to operate the new facility near Interstate 70 on Terre Haute’s east side. Hard Rock is also operating the new casino that opened in Gary earlier this month in a move from a Lake Michigan site.

Gaming Commission members, however, voted to delay consideration of the Terre Haute project’s financing until their next meeting on June 24. They said the commission was waiting on financial information from some Lucy Luck partners before approving a renewal of the casino’s license.

Casino officials had a year ago outlined a construction plan for opening the $125 million facility in September 2021. The Gaming Commission, however, forced two top executives to give up their ownership stakes in the project last year amid investigations into allegations of financial wrongdoings by them.

Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson took over leadership of the project that will be Indiana’s 13th casino location. Terre Haute would become the state’s first new community to get a casino since 2008.

Murray Clark, an Indianapolis attorney for the Lucy Luck group, told the Gaming Commission that Gibson has negotiated project financing commitments with a consortium of five Indiana banks that expire June 30.

“Mr. Gibson sought financing, last year, near the beginning of the pandemic, when the banking community was anxious, to say the least, about financing gaming facilities and operations,” Clark said.

Clark and Lucas made their presentations before the commission voted to delay consideration of the financing plan. Clark declined afterward to comment on whether that action threatened the construction timeline. Hard Rock and Lucy Luck representatives didn’t immediately provide comment Wednesday.

Lucas said Hard Rock expected the casino to have more than 600 employees. The facility’s plans include a Hard Rock Cafe, other restaurants and a 250-seat room for entertainment and meeting events.

“We are very excited about this project and can’t wait to get started,” Lucas said.