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Flooding closes Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino, costing taxpayers

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CLOSEFlooding closes Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino, costing taxpayers

Here's what the February 2018 flooding around Louisville and Southern Indiana looks like from a helicopter. Pat McDonogh/Louisville Courier Journal

Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino is losing about $731,113 per day — or a total of about $2,924,452 as of Monday morning, according to Courier Journal's calculation of past performances reported by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

That means Indiana loses an average of $255,049 a day in tax collections. 

The casino downriver from Louisville on Ind. 111 in Harrison County, Indiana, was closed due to rising flood waters on the Ohio River last Thursday morning and has remained closed since. In a note to the media Thursday, Horseshoe officials announced that all scheduled promotions, events, and entertainment at the gaming complex would be canceled Friday through Sunday.

It looks like it may be several days before it reopens because the river had reached its crest by mid-day Monday. Even though the 5,000-person capacity riverboat casino has remained afloat, the casino's Corps of Engineers permit requires it to shut down when flooding across the roadway prevents gamblers from safely reaching the gaming complex, located just across the Floyd-Harrison county line.

As a precaution, Belterra in Switzerland County also closed Friday morning.

February isn't usually the boat's biggest month. Snow and heavy rains typically deter many drive-in customers from navigating dark 111 from New Albany, but weekend visits to the slots and blackjack tables are seen as a respite for customers suffering from cabin fever during the winter.

Courier Journal examined three years of the most recent February performances as reported by the gaming commission. The casino's adjusted gross revenues, the total win collected at the slots and table games, exceeded $20.5 million each year during the month of February. .

The news organization calculated the average daily win and tax payments for 2015 through 2017 and also calculated an average based on those averages to arrive at a daily estimate from the prior three years.

A bit of history: The casino knowingly gambled on setting up its pavilion and 500-room hotel beside a creek and the Ohio River at the site of the unincorporated town of Bridgeport, which was washed away decades ago from — you guessed it — flooding.

The boat has shut down at least five times due to high water, with the last bad floods coming in 2011 when visitors were roused from their beds and asked to leave as the waters began to creep higher around the hotel and pavilion. The toll from closing that March and stretching back to the year 2000 was estimated then at $14.7 million.

Add in the past four days, and the estimate jumps to more than $17.6 million. 

Casino officials can't predict when the boat will re-open, but stay tuned, said Lizzet Verdi, marketing and entertainment manager. 

"It’s never an ideal situation when we have to close any part of the property for any length of time, but the safety of our guests and team Members comes first," Verdi said in an email, adding that "during this unexpected occurrence, we were able to provide our team members peace of mind by continuing to pay them their normal wages during the closure."

That pain can't be calculated. An executive with the original casino developers, Caesars World, admitted after the casino had opened its doors in late 1998 that it wasn't the best location after all, but the company had made its play and would roll with it.

Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/graces. 

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