Slots at tracks cancel Belterra hotel plans

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A planned $45 million expansion of Belterra Casino Resort and Spa’s hotel has been canceled following the Indiana Legislature’s decision to allow slot machines at Indiana’s two horse tracks.

Belterra owner Pinnacle Entertainment cited the legislative move in deciding to indefinitely postpone the planned expansion of its hotel along the Ohio River in Switzerland County.

Money for the riverboat casino’s project will be shifted to other markets, Pinnacle announced last Tuesday in a first-quarter earnings report.

“It’s going to take just enough business off the river that it’s going to leave a dent in the revenue and affect the job market and affect capital investment,” said Larry Buck, a Pinnacle vice president and regional manager, and former general manager at Belterra.

Up to 2,000 slot machines will be allowed at each of Indiana’s pari-mutuel horse tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville.

Supporters have said the slot machine bill will help the horse racing industry while providing much-needed cash for property tax relief. Licensing fees for the gambling machines will cover $550 million in property tax relief for homeowners over the next two years.

But Larry Buck said Pinnacle’s decision represents “just one example of the capital investment that is not going to be made as a direct result of the legislation.”

Belterra draws 16-percent of its revenue from the Indianapolis market, and casino representatives believe many of those customers will now visit the horse tracks instead.

The casino draws most of its customers from Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Lexington, Kentucky.

The project would have added a new tower with 250 rooms to the existing casino hotel.

– The Indianapolis Star