The Indiana Gaming Commission will likely postpone its review of the license application for a casino in Vigo County previously planned to happen at its March 26 meeting, casting more doubt over the future of the $125 million project after the sole license applicant recently got embroiled in a political scandal.
Commission Deputy Director Jenny Reske told local media on Wednesday that the regulator believes it is premature to act on the lone license application amid ongoing investigation into wrongdoing allegedly involving executives with the applicant, casino operator Spectacle Entertainment.
Spectacle is seeking permission to build a $125 million “rocksino” in Terre Haute, Vigo County. The facility would spread over 100,000 square feet and would feature slot machines and table games, sports betting, and a 300-seat entertainment theater, among other amenities. It will be operated by Spectacle’s partner Hard Rock International.
Court papers in a federal case in Virginia emerged last month, revealing that a Maryland-based political consultant had pleaded guilty to illegally directing funds from an Indiana casino operator to a state lawmaker who ran for the US Congress in 2015.
The gaming operator was identified as Company A in court papers, but the Indiana Gaming Commission has confirmed that the company was Centaur Gaming and that the federal case involved executives at that company.
Centaur Gaming sold Indiana’s two racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville to Caesars Entertainment Corp. in a $1.7 billion deal in the fall of 2017. Centaur’s CEO, Rod Ratcliff, and General Counsel, John Keeler, then formed Spectacle.
Spectacle purchased the two Majestic Star riverboat casinos in Gary. A sweeping gambling reform approved last summer enabled Spectacle to use one of the Majestic Star licenses to build a casino resort in Gary. The company had to surrender the other license to the Gaming Commission.
Spectacle then applied for the vacated license, which the Indiana gaming regulator designated for a Terre Haute project.
According to court papers, Charles O’Neil, Vice President of Virginia-based political consultancy firm Strategic Campaign Group, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make illegal campaign contributions, including $15,000 in corporate funds from Centaur. Former Indiana Senator Brent Waltz, who ran for the US House of Representatives in 2015, was found to have been the recipient of the illegal funds.
FBI Agent to Help Gaming Commission Determine “Appropriate Next Steps”
After news about the involvement of Spectacle executives emerged, the Indiana Gaming Commission initiated its own probe into the matter. Ms. Reske said Wednesday that they would “be closely watching any developments that occur and consulting with Walt Stowe, a former FBI agent, to determine the appropriate next steps.”
For now, it seems that the Gaming Commission is not likely to rule on Spectacle’s application for the Vigo County casino license and that it is set to postpone further action on the matter until its next meeting in May or June.
Ms. Reske told media that it is imperative to them to ensure that casino host communities are protected and all actions taken by the regulator are in these communities’ best interest. She went on that “ensuring that we have a reasonable time line to discuss and act on a Terre Haute license is among our top priorities.”