Gaming commission investigation of casino company Spectacle Entertainment grows – IndyStar

For months, the Indiana Gaming Commission has been quietly investigating Spectacle Entertainment, the casino company whose well-connected owners convinced state lawmakers last year to authorize new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute. 

Now, the investigation has grown to include many people in addition to John Keeler, the former lawmaker and casino executive. Keeler was indicted in September for allegedly funneling casino funds to a state senator’s failed congressional bid. 

“The IGC’s investigation is nearly complete,” the commission’s executive director, Sara Gonso Tait, said during a meeting Monday. “Our regulatory investigation involves matters in addition to the criminal matters previously disclosed.”

Keeler was an executive with Centaur Gaming at the time of the campaign donations to the U.S. House campaign of then-state Sen. Brent Waltz in 2015. At the time, Centaur was seeking legislative approval for live table games at the company’s two horse-track casinos in Shelbyville and Anderson.

John Keeler, general counsel for Spectacle Entertainment, talks about his company's desire to move two of their casino licenses during discussion about gaming in the House Public Policy Committee, Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

Keeler and other Centaur executives later sold the company to Caesar’s Entertainment and parlayed their $1.7 billion payday into a new company called Spectacle Entertainment.

They teamed up with Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson and began to aggressively lobby state officials for permission to build new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute. The company’s executives flew Gov. Eric Holcomb on private flights, arranged legal work for then-Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and hired another lawmaker’s company for title work. 

The gaming commission’s investigation is separate from the federal criminal investigation and now involves “more than 10 subjects,” Tait said.

“We have conducted 29 separate interviews of both licensees and former licensees, spanning nearly 33 hours of actual interview time,” she told commissioners. “Three individuals declined requested interviews by the IGC; this includes individuals that have previously been or currently are licensed by the IGC.”

She declined to identify any individuals who are under investigation, but in her statement she referred several times to former Centaur and Spectacle CEO Rod Ratcliff, a longtime fixture in Indiana’s casino industry. 

Ratcliff suddenly resigned from Spectacle in June, just weeks after the gaming commission received information regarding alleged violations of the Indiana Riverboat Gambling Act. He remains an owner, according to the gaming commission.

During her update to the commission, Tait also mentioned that the indictment of Keeler refers to another unnamed Centaur executive who met with a Virginia political consultant at the Indianapolis International Airport to arrange the alleged straw donations to Waltz’s campaign. 

Ratcliff is one of three people who have declined the gaming commission’s interview requests. The others were Kyle Waggoner and Adam Kallick, according to emails IndyStar obtained through a public records request. 

Waggoner was the vice president of hospitality at Indiana Grand in Shelbyville. His attorney declined to comment. 

Kallick is a former Centaur employee and lobbyist who stayed on with Caesar’s. He is also the son-in-law of state Rep. Dave Heine. Neither Kallick nor his attorney, Chris Gair, returned messages from IndyStar.

But in response to a June email from a gaming commission investigator, Gair wrote: “As I’m sure you know, there is a pending federal grand jury investigation. While Adam wishes to be cooperative with the IGC, I cannot let him compromise his Fifth Amendment rights.”

Gaming commissioners said during Monday’s meeting they expect to see a plan from Spectacle within the next 30 days if the company wants to keep its gaming licenses. 

In an emailed statement to IndyStar, Spectacle said it has been in frequent contact with gaming commission staff as the company develops a plan to address issues raised by the investigation. 

“From the beginning, we have taken this matter very seriously, as we share the Commission’s objective of protecting the integrity of gaming in the state,” said Jahnae

Erpenbach, Spectacle’s new CEO and board chair. “Spectacle will continue to

cooperate fully with the Commission and will be presenting its plan of action to the

Commission in the near future.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at 317-444-6081 or Follow him on Twitter: @IndyStarTony.

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