Full House Resorts Sues IGC With Goal Of Voiding Vigo County License Decision

Company is trying to undo the state agency's award of the license to Churchill Downs
Full House, Churchill Downs, Vigo County
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Full House Resorts filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Gaming Commission, looking to void the state agency’s decision in November to award the Vigo County casino license to Churchill Downs Inc.

Full House Resorts filed the complaint last Friday in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, asking to void the action of the IGC in its award of the license and seeking injunctive relief under the state’s “Open Door Law.”

There are two key points of contention in the complaint. One is a technical argument that the public notice of the Nov. 17 meeting did not cite a statute that authorized what Full House is calling a “mid-Hearing executive session.” It claims that failing to specify a time when that executive session would take place is a violation of state statute.

Full House submitted summonses for IGC Chairman Harold McMains and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rodkita to appear in court. According to the Tribune-Star, McMains sharply criticized Full House’s decision to file the complaint during Tuesday’s virtual IGC meeting.

“I have always held Full House in high regard. As I sit here today, I believe I may have made a mistake,” McMains said, noting he voted for Full House in the first round of final voting for the casino license. “Important criteria that we consider when granting gaming licenses to licensees in the state of Indiana, based on Indiana law, is their character, their integrity, their reputation, their behavior — and frankly this action of filing these complaints can only be viewed, by me, as sour grapes.

“I think it is vindictive, malicious and I think it is frivolous,” he added. “And I am embarrassed for Full House for having done this. Did you really think the Indiana Gaming Commission is going to change their mind because you file a complaint? I rather doubt that is going to happen. This will not prevail and, respectfully, I hope that you will reconsider this action.”

The key claim in Full House’s complaint

The second claim is the IGC considered the merits of Churchill Downs’ proposal with the possibility of the casino being located on a property not submitted in its initial application. Full House stated the property CDI proposed in its filing as an applicant was a “substandard site adjacent to a sewage treatment and county jail.” In the complaint, Full House also ridiculed the idea Churchill Downs “proposed a glamorous, open air, rooftop bar that would be overlooking the sewage treatment plant and jail” while asserting what it felt were the superior technical merits of its own bid.

Full House stated that when it and Churchill Down were making five-minute presentations as the two finalists for the casino license, CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen made repeated assertions his company had “complete flexibility to choose a location, including locations of its competitors that it has no legal right to and that were not included in its application.” Full House submitted what it considered relevant portions of Carstanjen’s responses during the final round Q-and-A in support of its claim:

“Whoever wins here, the other sites then would be relatively available once a winner is selected, so if there’s a collective consensus that we should move, we’d listen and do that.” — Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO Bill Carstanjen.

In a second quote, Carstanjen said, “[I]f it were the Commission’s wish that we try to find a location out to the east then we would go find that. I think whoever wins is going to find that some of those land options out there are available because the project that was going to be there … the parties that got it didn’t win the bid.’

Full House also claims CDI’s application included a second appendix not made public that identified a proposed site not under contract near the Terre Haute Airport. It also appears to object to the presence of former IGC Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait, claiming she appeared as the lone representative of CDI’s law firm. Prior to moving into private practice, Tait oversaw the beginning of the second licensing process for the Vigo County casino in late June, which became necessary over the summer after the IGC unanimously rejected renewing Lucy Luck’s license.

IGC settles with Lucy Luck on rejected application

Churchill Downs Inc. moved another step closer to obtaining the Vigo County casino license Tuesday since the IGB reached a settlement regarding the rejection of Lucy Luck’s application. Lucy Luck will get its $5 million application fee for the casino license returned, and after an administrative judge dismisses the appeal related to the settlement, CDI will obtain the license contingent on paying the $5 million fee.

Photo: Shutterstock

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