Indiana casino projects in Terry Haute and Gary could be in peril as authorities conduct an investigation on illegal political contributions involving a casino executive. That probe has expanded to 10 people who may have committed financial misconduct that would violate state casino regulations or laws.
Spectacle Entertainment, the owners of the Gary Casino located along Lake Michigan, are currently working on a replacement $300M inland Casino in Gary and a $125M casino in Terry Haute. But the company is currently under fire due to allegations that its executives funneled company money to the unsuccessful 2016 campaign of a former lawmaker.
Unsuccessful Congressional Bid
The subject lawmaker is Brent Waltz, a former state senator who ran for a congressional seat but was unsuccessful. Waltz was charged with one count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions, false statements, and to obstruct justice, one count of making and receiving conduit contributions, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements.
Former Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler saw his casino license suspended last September after an indictment charged him one count of conspiracy to make illegal corporate contributions, false statements, and to obstruct justice, one count of making illegal corporate contributions, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements.
Keeler and fellow Spectacle executive Rod Ratcliff were forced by authorities to give up their ownership in the Terry Haute casino although they allowed one business partner to proceed with the project. The two pushed lawmakers last year to allow Gary’s Casino to move from Lake Michigan to a more strategic location along interstate 80/94 in Gary and permit Terry Haute to become the first new Indiana casino since 2008.
Long Active Lobbyists
Ratcliff was not named in the federal indictment and isn’t facing any criminal charges. He however, resigned as Spectacle’s Chairman and CEO last June but was allowed to keep his share in the company.
Keeler, who was a Republican legislator for 16 years during the 80s and 90s, and Ratcliff have long been active lobbyists in the Indiana legislature on casino matters and were the owners of the two central Indiana horse track casinos until the time they were sold to Caesars Entertainment in 2018.
The Terry Haute Casino is being spearheaded by a company called Spectacle Jack. The firm is led by Greg Gibson, a businessman from Terry Haute who is also the vice-chairman of Spectacle Entertainment. In a statement released last Tuesday, Spectacle Entertainment said that Gibson wasn’t a subject of the investigation but is cooperating with state officials.