Gov. “There weren’t any jobs.”
However, folks in Orange County did want it. CFC also purchased French Lick Springs Resort and committed to $80 million worth of restorations.
The executive vice president and chief operating officer of Cook Group Inc. Hundreds of thousands of visitors spent a grand total of $68.3 million at the casino in its first year. Orange County’s is 6.6 percent.
“It wasn’t necessarily a vote against bringing economic activity to the French Lick area,” Koch said. We were blessed with the Cook deal.”
Two weeks into August 2004, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts announced that the company was seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Koch is referring the operating agent agreement between the Indiana Gaming Commission and the Blue Sky Casino, LLC, a partnership between Lauth Resorts and Cook, who would step in after the Trump proposal fell through.
In 2006, the groups opened a $200 million casino in a lagoon at the French Lick Resorts. was part of the Historic Hotel Preservation Committee that spent months pouring over plans to build Indianas 11th casino.
At the beginning of March 2005, the new executive director of the gaming commission announced that Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts had decided to abandon the project.
In the early ’90s, the lofty goal of legislators like Jerry Denbo, the Democratic state representative for French Lick from 1990 to 2007, was to pair a casino with a refurbished West Baden Springs Hotel.
“Things were going downhill,” Barnett said. Trump had the best proposal in terms of what he was going do locally what he was going do for local communities, said Steve Ferguson, who was on the committee tasked to make a final recommendation to the gaming commission.
In July of 2004, the Indiana Gaming Commission and Historic Hotel Preservation Committee chose Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts proposal to build a casino next to the French Lick Springs Resort.
The arrangement meant the French Lick casino’s license would be held by the state, and they would be subject to separate standards than other riverboat casinos in Indiana.
In 2003, Gov. Having said that, the law evolved to where it was better at the end of the day.”
Opponents of the bill included two area lawmakers – former Sen. The group lobbied hard at the Statehouse, always wearing orange shirts that read “Save French Lick and West Baden,” according to Times-Mail archives.
Geneva Street, an Orange County hairdresser and prominent orange shirt, said it was difficult to get people to listen at first.
Alan Barnett, former French Lick-West Baden Chamber of Commerce executive secretary and former manager of the Indiana Railway Museum, said the area desperately needed jobs after losing major employers, including the closing of the Kimball furniture plants in French Lick and West Baden Springs in the early 2000s.
Eventually, Denbo sponsored the bill that would transfer the riverboat casino license from Patoka Lake to a new historic preservation district in French Lick and West Baden Springs.
As for Alan Barnett, he’s happy Cook stepped in when it did. A month later, he called for the entire gaming commission to resign for authorizing the Trump project in the first place.
In the spring of 2004, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts had a detailed plan to invest more than $100 million into a casino in French Lick. But the lake’s owners the U.S. Becky Skillman and Rep. and Lt. A $287,500 donation to French Lick’s Indiana Railway Museum also was promised.
But Cook Group came up with a plan.
Cook and nonprofit Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana had already teamed up in 1996 to take on the task of rehabilitating West Baden Springs Hotel.
“I don’t think there’s any question the progress would have been dramatically less than it is now, he said. He said a Trump casino would have paled in comparison.
It was the plan that made the most sense, Steve Ferguson remembers.
And Donald Trump was going to build that casino.. “We’d send letters and letters and letters daily to the Statehouse. “I’ve just always been concerned about the expansion of gambling as an economic tool. Eric Koch, both Republicans from Bedford, according to T-M archives.
CFC, a Cook Group affiliate, entered into a partnership called Blue Sky Casino with Indianapolis-based Lauth Property Group, were the final bidders for the Orange County casino license. Shortly after O’Bannon signed the bill, Orange County residents voted in favor, 5,127 to 2,642, on a referendum to allow gaming.
Orange County residents and officials saw gambling as the way out of the areas economic despair for French Lick and West Baden.
Today, Koch said he still doesn’t see gambling expansion as a good economic tool.
“When we first showed up, (lawmakers) would hide and not talk to us,” Street said. Hundreds of new employees were hired. Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t interested.
The Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts proposal to the Indiana Gaming Commission included a $124 million investment, including the purchase of the West Baden Springs Hotel. Indianas current unemployment rate is 5.5 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. But by the end of 2004, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts had filed for bankruptcy.
In February 2003, Orange County’s unemployment rate was the highest in the state at 10.4 percent, according to Times-Mail archives.
The state’s 11th license was attached to Patoka Lake, thanks to legislation passed by the 1993 Indiana General Assembly legalizing riverboat casinos. Frank O’Bannon signed a bill that brought the casino boat license to Orange County. Then, we got in with Steve Ferguson, and he felt sorry for Orange County.”
Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels, before taking office, demanded to review Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts final operating contract before the Indiana Gaming Commission moved forward with the project. An activist group known as the “Orange Shirts” saw casino gambling as a way to improve their economically downtrodden area
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