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Owner of Evansville casino plans move from riverboat to new $50M on-shore facility


EVANSVILLE, Indiana — The Tropicana Evansville casino will move from its current riverboat docked along the Ohio River to a new $50 million onshore facility under a plan announced Tuesday.

The Evansville casino would be the first to take advantage of a new state law allowing Indiana's 10 riverboat casinos to build new on-land facilities near their current locations to help them compete with casinos in neighboring states.

Tropicana's plans call for construction of the new 75,000 square-foot casino between its two existing hotels across the street from the current riverboat. Tropicana says it expects construction to start in early 2016 and take at least 18 months. It'll need final approvals from city officials and the Indiana Gaming Commission.

John Chaszar, the casino's general manager, described the new building as a multi-purpose casino and entertainment facility that will provide more amenities.

Indiana's casinos have seen big declines in business and the loss of hundreds of jobs in recent years as more gambling options have become available in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.

The new law gives the 10 riverboats along Lake Michigan and the Ohio River the option to build new on-land casinos, which the state already has with the French Lick casino in southern Indiana and two horse track casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville near Indianapolis.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said he believes the law change puts Indiana's casinos on a "more level playing field" with competitors in other states.

"I suspect this will be first of several casinos around the state that will make the move to try to go on land," Winnecke said.

Tropicana's deal with the city calls for it to contribute $1 million toward moving a restored World War II ship from its current dock upriver from downtown Evansville to the site of the current riverboat casino. The group that oversees the LST 325, a troop landing ship which took part in the 1944 D-Day landings in France, has been seeking a new location to attract more visitors.

Winnecke said plans for moving the warship include building a new welcome area and gift shop.

"We'll be able to do a lot for a million dollars to help the LST move," he said.

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