Indiana Ditches Planned iGaming Legislation Amid Eberhart Guilty Plea

Indiana State Outline on the Right and a Legal Document on the Left

Unfortunately for online casino and poker players in Indiana, the wait for legal iGaming in the state remains. Lawmakers in Indiana have announced they will not introduce new legislation to expand the iGaming industry next year. Due to a recent scandal, it may be difficult to do so in the coming years.

Former Representative Sean Eberhart Took Bribes from Spectacle Entertainment

Due to a case involving former Representative Sean Eberhart, the state’s efforts to bring more online gaming to its residents and visitors have been thwarted. The former Rep. pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges earlier this month, and it has tainted the statehouse’s reputation.

Eberhart acknowledged taking a bribe from a gaming company known as Spectacle Entertainment. The company was a new operator seeking to move two Indiana gaming boats to land in Gary. In a report by WBAA-FM, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray stated that the scandal means that any legislation regarding iGaming cannot be pushed forward.

Bray stated that the case tainted the integrity of the statehouse and diminished the confidence that the people of the state have in their lawmakers. The Senator also feels that the actions of the former Rep. will affect expanding gaming beyond 2024, making it difficult to discuss policy changes.

Eberhart was accused of taking a bribe from Spectacle in exchange for a $350,000-a-year position at the company. The accused can face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 plus three years of probation after serving a prison term for his actions. Eberhart has agreed to pay $60,000 in restitution to the state, which is his annual salary as a lawmaker.

Disappointment for the Gaming Industry

It is a bitter pill to swallow for those hopeful for an expansion in the gaming industry, considering that the state may be years behind in passing legislation. Indiana has been on the shortlist of states expected to expand into online casino services next.

Bills have been introduced yearly since 2021 to try to bring online poker and casino gaming to life in the state. All efforts had failed, but 2024 looked promising. Now, lawmakers feel that Eberhart’s actions will taint any effort, and the public will not be confident in what lawmakers propose.

The scandal involving Eberhart has been ongoing for quite some time. Back in mid-2018, Caesars purchased Centaur Holdings LLC. The group operated casinos and off-track betting facilities in Indiana. This included the Indiana Grand Casino and Racetrack, rebranded to the Horseshoe Indianapolis in 2022.

Former executives of Centaur created Spectacle after Centaur was sold. CEO Rod Ratcliff and the company hoped that the licenses from two riverboat casinos in Gary could be moved to land. A gaming bill was introduced by Eberhart in 2019 to allow the move, asking Spectacle to pay $20 million in transfer fees. This was far below the $100 million already required by law for a transfer.

The bill also gave Spectacle tax incentives. The bill was passed, and one of the transferred licenses went to Hard Rock, Northern Indiana. It opened in 2021. The other license is held by Churchill Downs Incorporated, with a new facility set to open next year.

From all this, it was determined that Eberhart took the bribe and created the legislation to favor Spectacle. Now, he must pay the price for his actions, along with the state and proponents of iGaming, which is the biggest disappointment connected to the case.

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