Casino Approved for Indiana's Orange County

Gaming Commission approves plan for proposed $240 million casino


FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- The state Gaming Commission gave its initial approval Thursday to a $240 million plan to open a casino in southern Indiana's Orange County, which local residents hope will lead to an economic revival for the area.

The proposal led by Bloomington billionaire William Cook's company was the only one submitted after Donald Trump's casino company withdrew in March from its contract to build and operate the casino.

"Although we were presented with only one applicant, we weighed our consideration as if there were many," said Ernest Yelton, the commission's executive director.

The commission's approval of the bid from Blue Sky Casino -- a partnership between medical device maker Cook Group Inc. and real estate developer Lauth Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis -- came with several conditions.

The commission said it would review contracts for work on two nearby historic hotels -- the French Lick Springs Resort & Spa and West Baden Springs Hotel -- and with Majestic Star to operate the casino, which is the eleventh allowed under Indiana law.

Final approval could be granted by August, Yelton said.