Cinci casino competition renews talk of Clark Co. casino


by Joe Arnold

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 6 at 2:11 AM

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- Could the opening of a new casino in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio be the first step to bringing casino gambling to the riverfront across from downtown Louisville, Kentucky?

"I think that's bound to affect a boat on the river by Cincinnati," said Clark County Commissioner John Perkins (D), a long time Southern Indiana gambling proponent.

Horseshoe's new downtown Cincinnati casino is one of four Ohio casinos predicted to drain upwards of $300 million each year from Indiana's bordering casinos.

Perkins said if Indiana riverboats have a tough time competing with Ohio, they should consider tapping into the Louisville market by moving operations to the Indiana shore opposite downtown Louisville.

"If I owned one of those boats and I saw my revenue drop by 20, 30, 40 percent, I'm looking at the bottom line," Perkins said.

Perkins suggested a casino project could be anchored by the now abandoned Colgate plant, a thought echoed by Clarksville's Redevelopment Director,

"Obviously, I would see a development like this as a positive for our region, our riverfront, and certainly a positive for the redevelopment of Colgate," said Nick Lawrence.

Three Indiana casinos are built within 50 miles of Cincinnati, Belterra, Rising Star and Hollywood.  None of those three Indiana venues responded to WHAS11' s requests for comment on Tuesday.

Since 1995, Indiana has tapped Kentucky and Ohio wallets with ten riverboat casinos, plus gambling at the French Lick Resort and two racetracks.

After a 2009 referendum in Ohio, casinos have now opened in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.  The state also plans gambling at seven "racino's" - casinos at racetracks.

As the Ohio border is squeezed, Perkins contends Clark County - where voters approved casino gambling in 2006 on the referendum's third try - now may have a second chance after "missing the boat" when Caesars opened in Harrison County in 1998.

Now dubbed Horseshoe Southern Indiana, the Harrison County venue stands to lose if a casino opens nearer downtown Louisville.

"Since the announcement of Horseshoe Cincinnati opening we have seen an increase in visitation from Cincinnati guests," said Lizzet Verdi, the Marketing and Communications Supervisor for Horseshoe Southern Indiana.  "We are excited to be able to cross-promote our brand across multiple states."

Verdi said the Harrison County property offers amenities not available in Downtown Cincinnati, such as a hotel, golf course and spa.

"Customers will view us as a destination where they come to get away," Verdi said.

Perkins said the Indiana law banning licenses from being moved can be repealed.

"I think if I'm a casino and I'm not doing very well wherever, I should be allowed to move my business to where I want to go," Perkins said, adding that communities that lose a gambling operation should share in the revenues generated in the new community.

"Licensees are not currently allowed to move locations in the state of Indiana," Verdi said in a statement to WHAS11, "and we have become a fixture in the entertainment industry in the region and pride ourselves on our commitment to our local community and our guests. We are confident our superior service will keep our guests coming back."

Perkins said he believes casino gambling in Kentucky is inevitable, so Indiana needs to act, now.

"It might be two years; it might three years," Perkins said.  "But, it's coming, and I think that the Ohio situation in Cincinnati is really going to kind of light a fire."