Hard Rock Northern Indiana set to open in May

By Mia Chapman Updated
Hard Rock coming to Vegas Strip after iconic deal

A new casino is set to open in northwestern Indiana in mid-May after delays due to allegations of financial wrongdoing by the casino developer’s former top executive.

Daily Herald reports that the Indiana Gaming Commission has ticked off the opening of a new $300 million casino and also settled a $530,000 fine against Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment over missing by 53 days a deadline for ex-company chief executive Rod Ratcliff to sell his ownership stake in the new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary.

In early March, Mr Ratcliff agreed to permanently give up his state casino licence after a couple decades as a heavyweight in Indiana’s gambling industry.

Hard Rock Casino executive Jon Lucas said the new casino was expected to open to the public on May 15.

The new casino, along Interstate 80/94 will replace the existing Majestic Star casino along Lake Michigan.

The developer of the planned $125 million casino in Terre Haute told the commission that a late April groundbreaking is planned for the project.

Mr Ratcliff and another former Spectacle executive were forced to give up their ownership stake in the Terre Haute casino in 2020 to business partner Greg Gibson after they faced allegations of making illegal political campaign contributions with casino company money.

Spectacle’s licence yanked for staff members’ alleged election tampering

A former casino chairman has become embodied in an alleged election tampering saga which has led to his casino licence being revoked.

Calvin Ayre reported in February that former chief executive officer and Spectacle Entertainment chairman Rod Ratcliff is the subject of an Indiana Gaming Commission investigation into Ratcliff and several people tied to Spectacle and Centaur Gaming.

Ratcliff, along with the casino operator’s vice president and general counsel John Keeler, who has already been indicted on charges of campaign fraud are subject of the investigation.

A lot of underhanded dealings were said to have been conducted to try to help Brent Waltz, now a former Indiana senator, win a seat in Congress.

Charges included conspiracy, falsification of documents, obstruction of justice, receipt of illegal campaign funds and more.

Ratcliff was never charged in the case, however his proximity to the others forced him into the hot seat.

During its investigation, the IGC found a number of violations at Spectacle that raised red flags.

They also determined that he had been involved in overseeing operations at Spectacle’s Majestic Star Casino in Gary after he resigned as the company’s chairman and CEO.

Not only was he an outsider at that point, but he also disobeyed a direct order from the IGC not to get involved.

As the investigation advanced, other troubling activity was uncovered.

The IGC reports that Ratcliff had an undisclosed account with racing betting platform FastBet and while running Centaur, would have employees make deposits from Centaur operations to that account.

It is believed he received about $900,000 over four years, with the money being logged in Centaur’s books as “marketing” expenses.

Due to the repeated offences and lack of moral compass, the IGC determined that “based on the information in this complaint, respondent does not have the high standards of character and reputation required of a licensee in Indiana.

“Any one of these matters, individually, should lead to revocation of his licensee.”

It added that the FastBet issue could lead to additional charges being levied against Ratcliff.

The removal of Spectacle’s licence could put Hard Rock International’s Indiana plans in jeopardy, as has been previously suggested.

It is expected to take control of the assets of Centaur’s Majestic Star riverboats to launch a new Hard Rock Northern Indiana in Gary, but might find this to be a difficult task requiring a new licence application, not a simple transfer.

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