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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Terre Haute could get a new casino regardless of what the owners of Gary’s casinos decide to do.

The latest version of a gambling bill uncouples the Terre Haute and Gary casinos. If Vigo County voters approve, a five-member advisory board, led by Mayor Duke Bennett or his successor, would review proposals and give recommendations to the Gaming Commission, which would pick three finalists to submit sealed bids:

recommend three finalists to submit sealed bids — high bid gets the license.

House Ways and Means Co-Chairman Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says the process ensures the Terre Haute community is a full partner in deciding which casino operator is the best fit.

The Senate’s original bill created the Terre Haute casino by transferring one of Gary’s two Majestic Star casinos. Huston’s rewrite severs that connection, though Majestic Star’s new owners, Spectacle Entertainment, could compete with rival casino companies for the Terre Haute license. The bill gives Spectacle the option of converting the dual casino on Lake Michigan into a single, larger casino in downtown Gary, for a $50 million fee. That’s half the fee proposed by a different House committee. Huston says he lowered the figure in recognition of an estimated $10-to-15 million cost to move the casino. But he’s adamant there should be a fee of some kind. He says the move represents a reshaping of the casino market and a huge boost to the value of the casino license, and notes it can’t happen without the state’s participation.

Other provisions of the bill are largely unchanged from what emerged from the House Public Policy Committee. The bill would legalize sports betting at Indiana casinos beginning September 1, just in time for football season. That’s two months later than the bill’s previous version — Huston says the Indiana Department of Revenue needs the extra time to prepare for the collection of new wagering taxes. And the bill authorizes live table games at the racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville in 2021.

The full House will vote Thursday or Monday, setting the stage for two weeks of negotiations with the Senate on a final version.

(Photo: lucadp/Thinkstock)