HARRISON COUNTY, IN (WAVE) - The casino in southern Indiana is coming ashore.
Tuesday's unanimous approval by the Indiana Gaming Commission will allow Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino to move their gambling operations from the boat to a physical building along Highway 111 in Harrison County.
The casino plans to break ground on the new facility within the next 60 days. It'll take about 18 months to build but when it's done in late 2019, gambling on water at the current location will become a thing of the past.
>>> PREVIOUS STORY: Horseshoe Casino to undergo $85 million renovation
"This will enable us to even further improve and really change and innovate on that experience," Brad Seigel, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Horseshoe Southern Indiana, said.
The $85 million project will trade riverboat gambling for a new 100,000 square foot facility on land. It's a project Seigel said the casino has had in their minds since the state legalized gambling on land a few years earlier.
"We've really looked closely at it over the last 12 months and then kicked off our design period which as I mentioned, is coming down the home stretches," Seigel said. "And an important day yesterday as the gaming commission gave unanimous approval on the project, and we're excited to move forward."
The casino came to Harrison County 20 years ago after voters rejected the option in Clark and Floyd Counties. A vocal group in each county fought the casino moving in, some for religious reasons, while others argued the riverboat gambling would eventually turn into a permanent land-based option.
Over the 20 years of gambling in southern Indiana, the casino has brought more than just traffic to Harrison County. Casino revenue has brought in millions of dollars to Floyd and Harrison County to improve the community's infrastructure and through gr ant funding for improvement projects.
"A quarter of a billion dollars that has benefited Harrison County and Floyd County because of the casino being here," Jerry Finn, Executive Director of Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, said. "There's not many businesses that can brag about that kind of philanthropy."
That money helped to make the Floyd County YMCA a reality. It also helped fund improvements to the facade of buildings in downtown New Albany. Many students receive scholarships as well, Finn said, making a big difference in affording higher education.
An initial $75,000 donation helped bring Imagination Library to life in Floyd County. The group has received more than $445,000 in donations and provides 3,700 kids each month with books to read. The program helps them get excited about reading while also better preparing them to learn to read when they start school.
"It would be difficult to go somewhere and find something that has not benefited from the foundation," Finn said.
While the on-land casino won't be ready to open until 2019, many are excited to see what possibilities the new building will bring.
"It can stimulate new demand and I think that it will do that," Seigel said. "And we're excited to offer what will be a fresh and new look to Horseshoe Southern Indiana. We'll be able to stimulate some new sources of demand and with that, could come new jobs."
As for the boat, casino leaders said once the land-based casino here is up and running, they'll shut the casino floor on the boat down and look at selling it to another riverboat operation.
The casino coming to southern Indiana was fought by many in Clark and Floyd County in the 90's, predicting riverboat gambling would lead to this kind of permanent gaming facility. WAVE 3 News reached out to some of those who opposed the casino then, who did not or declined to respond.