Full House Casino Hotel Proposal Plagiarizes Brazilian Venue, Says Lawyer

Posted on: November 16, 2021, 11:02h. 

Last updated on: November 17, 2021, 10:23h.

When Full House Resorts submitted its proposal for the Vigo County casino license, the Las Vegas-based gaming company said a four-star hotel with a “unique architectural design” would be part of the $250 million development. However, a lawyer claiming to represent a famous Brazilian architect has told the Indiana Gaming Commission that that’s not the case.

Hotel Unique Brazil
At left is the Hotel Unique in Sao Paolo, Brazil. At right is a rendering of the hotel that’s part of Full House Resort’s American Place Casino, which would be built in Terre Haute, Ind. A lawyer for Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake claims the hotel designed by Los Angeles-based JERDE is “a messy copy, with gross changes” to Ohtake’s design for Hotel Unique. (Images: Ronit Bhattacharjee/Flickr and Full House Resorts)

On Friday, Mariana Mello, a partner with Sao Paolo-based Mello Advogados Associados, sent the Indiana Gaming Commission a letter. In it, he states that the semi-circular shaped hotel that’s part of Full House’s proposed American Place Casino in Terre Haute is “a shameless copy” of a hotel in the Brazilian capital designed by Ruy Ohtake more than 20 years ago.

Ohtake was the architect for Hotel Unique, which opened in 2003. Mello said Ohtake came up with the round building supported by side gables.

The 95-room hotel, according to a 2014 New York Times review, provides “a pleasant and peculiar experience for guests looking for something out of the ordinary.”

Mello said Ohtake learned about the Full House project last week, and in the letter accused Los Angeles-based architectural firm JERDE of plagiarism, as Ohtake has copyrighted his design. She added no one ever sought Ohtake’s approval.

Mello wrote, “…the project presented to this company is a shameless copy of the architectural project of the Notifier (Ohtake). Worse than that, it’s a messy copy, with gross changes to the original design that, however, aren’t able to hide the improper copy made.”

Messages to Mello, Full House, and JERDE were not returned.

Full House Presents Proposal Wednesday

Full House is one of four companies that will give presentations to the IGC at a meeting Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis. The commission is scheduled to vote on an applicant that would receive the license for the state’s 13th casino, pending the outcome of an appellate hearing involving the previous license holder.

The commission voted to not renew the license of Lucy Luck in June after the company failed to make substantial progress on a proposed Hard Rock Rocksino after getting the license in May 2020. Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson, who founded Lucy Luck, filed the appeal in the state’s Office of Administrative Law Proceedings. An administrative law judge issued a stay on the IGC’s decision while the case is being considered.

Others applying for the license include Hard Rock International, Churchill Downs Incorporated, and Premier Gaming Group.

Design Change May Not Pose Problems

In the letter to the IGC, Mello warns the IGC that it “must refrain from accepting, disclosing, or carrying out the work” presented by Full House or risk “being co-responsible for the plagiarism.”

However, if Full House were to be picked, it may not necessarily be an issue if the company was forced to go in a different direction with the hotel.

IGC Deputy Director Jenny Reske told Casino.org that the commissioners have “broad discretion on how to weigh the different factors” when selecting an applicant. What the IGC requires is that licensees’ end products “are substantially the same” as what they proposed.

“If the capital investment remains the same, and they’re proposing a four-star hotel, if that would remain the same, then I don’t think the commissioners would find the specific design details material enough to cause action,” she said.

The four-star hotel is a key part of Full House’s proposal. At a presentation in Terre Haute last month, company officials told residents that it was an amenity that the community lacked and would help draw visitors to the casino.

The 100-room four-star hotel would likely include such items as luxury furnishings, room service, and a full-service spa.