In Indiana and the plan to bring a $125 million casino to the southern city of Terre Haute has reportedly hit a snag after state regulators postponed a licensing hearing so that they can investigate whether executives for the proposed venue’s operator have ties to illegal campaign contributions.
According to a Friday report from local television broadcaster WTWO-TV, local firm Spectacle Entertainment was the only party to have filed an application for the license to run the envisioned Indiana casino and it had been hoping that state regulators would approve its plan for the new Rocksino by Hard Rock development via a February 7 hearing.
However, the Indiana Gaming Commission reportedly revealed on Thursday that it was rescheduling this meeting so that it can examine whether there were any links between Spectacle Entertainment and a scheme that was said to have illegally helped to funnel more than $15,000 to the unsuccessful 2016 campaign by former Indiana State Senator Brent Waltz to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
Read a statement from the Indiana Gaming Commission…
“The meeting tentatively scheduled for February 7 has been postponed. The Indiana Gaming Commission received information on January 23 regarding the applicant for the Vigo County owner’s license that requires investigation pursuant to the Indiana Gaming Commission’s statutory responsibilities.”
WTWO-TV reported that the Chief Executive Officer for Spectacle Entertainment, Rod Radcliff, is known to have been actively involved in lobbying for the 2016 campaign that saw Eric Holcomb (pictured) elected as the 51st Governor of Indiana. The executive was purportedly joined in these efforts by the firm’s Vice-President, John Keeler, although a subsequent state investigation is said to have concluded that neither had done wrong.
The broadcaster further reported that the latest allegations of potential impropriety originate from a federal case in Virginia in which Charles O’Neil, Vice-President for consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group, pled guilty to charges that he had illegally helped an Indianapolis-headquartered gaming enterprise in to illegally contribute funds to Waltz.
WTWO-TV reported that Radcliff and Keeler had been top executives at Centaur Gaming before helping to reconstitute the firm as Spectacle Entertainment following the 2018 sale of its Indiana Grand Racing and Casino and Hoosier Park Racing and Casino properties to Caesars Entertainment Corporation. The Indianapolis-based operator later went on to purchase Gary’s floating Majestic Star Casino Hotel and Majestic Star Casino Hotel II in advance of successfully lobbying state legislators for a change in the law so that it could move operations onshore via a new venue to be christened as the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.
This legislative shake-up moreover reportedly resulted in Terre Haute being given permission to host a slots-friendly casino, which Spectacle anticipated being its 100,000 sq ft Rocksino by Hard Rock additionally featuring a sportsbook as well as a pair of restaurants, bars, a café and the 300-seat Velvet Lounge entertainments venue.
Spectacle reportedly told the broadcaster that Strategic Campaign Group had once contracted with Centaur Gaming and that it would now ‘fully cooperate’ with the investigation being conducted by the Indiana Gaming Commission over claims that the former partner had ‘been implicated in charges related to campaign finance violations in Virginia.’
Reportedly read a statement from Spectacle Entertainment…
“Spectacle pledges to fully cooperate with the Indiana Gaming Commission as it investigates this matter. We take such matters very seriously and we will share more information should additional details become available.”
Indiana State Senator Jon Ford co-authored the legislation to bring a casino to Terre Haute and he reportedly told the broadcaster that the launch of an investigation into Spectacle Entertainment would not stop the plan to bring a gambling venue to the Vigo County community of some 171,000 people, which lies only about five miles from the Midwestern state’s border with Illinois.
Ford reportedly told WTWO-TV…
“The license is attached to Terre Haute. Once we approved the referendum for the license, it positioned the license here in Terre Haute. I think it’s premature to really think about if the application wouldn’t go through. These kinds of things are slow and tedious [but] we’ve been going at this for quite a while already and that’s just kind of the nature of big significant economic development projects.”
But, the Mayor for Terre Haute, Duke Bennet, reportedly admitted to being unclear about the future of the plan to bring a casino to his community although he stated that he is hopeful the situation can be resolved sooner rather than later.
Bennet reportedly told the broadcaster…
“If it adds a few months on, I mean, so be it, but if it adds a long period of time on of course it sets back our future plans of what we want to do when the casino is up and running and revenue starts coming in. Obviously, we want people to go to work. The construction workers and all that, so I think it’s a little premature to know what that means yet. But the longer it goes on, obviously the more of an impact that it has.”