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Howard Stutz

Full House Resorts proposes $650 million Indianapolis casino

12 August 2015

Las Vegas-based casino operator Full House Resorts wants to build a $650 million resort development near Indianapolis and is willing to give up half the games at its southeastern Indiana casino for the project.

The company proposed the development to Indiana lawmakers at the site of a razed airport terminal and nearby parking lots that are no longer used by the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Full House submitted the proposal in response to the Indianapolis International Airport's "Land Use Initiative." The Airport Authority will put several hundred acres on the market for sale or lease for non-aviation purposes.

In a statement, Full House said its development would be one of the largest privately funded construction projects in Indiana history.

The Full House plan calls for "American Place," an upscale 700,000 square-foot retail center anchored by a casino with 700 slot machines and table games. Full House CEO Dan Lee said the company would transfer half of its 1,400 combined slot machines and table games, licensed for its Rising Sun Casino, to the Indianapolis development. The gaming transfers requires state approval.

"American Place" also calls for 25-unit villa-style hotel, residential condominiums, offices, a conference and performing arts center, a restaurant court, a health club and a multiplex movie theater. Also, the development would house a seasonal plaza for summer and winter events and a central square surrounded by a unique fountain and 3-D imaging experience.

"We can build something here that doesn't exist anywhere else," Lee said. "Given the adjacency of the airport, we expect the center to attract people from throughout the country to an experience that is part Indianapolis, part Las Vegas, and 100% unique."

Lee said there are several existing hotels near the site. The small hotel within the center would cater to casino high rollers.

"We then plan to operate a shuttle service connecting American Place with all neighboring hotels," Lee said.

Full House said an independent third-party study estimated "American Place" would generate $85 million per year in state and local taxes, create 4,000 permanent jobs, and attract 10 million to 15 million visitors annually.

The casino portion may be the most controversial aspect. It will be the first serious attempt to bring gambling to Indiana's capital city since a failed proposal two decades ago to put a casino and horse race track at the State Fairgrounds.

According to the Indianapolis Star, legislators have opposed casinos in the state's largest city.

Lee said Full House's Rising Star has been hurt by expanded casinos in neighboring Cincinnati. Revenues at the casino have plunged by 75%, to $40 million a year, since the Ohio competition began.

"It's barely profitable now," Lee said.