In Indiana and a senior executive with the firm behind the under-construction Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana has reportedly been indicted on federal charges that he helped illegally funnel campaign contributions to a state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional run.
According to a Tuesday report from the Chicago Tribune newspaper, John Keeler (pictured) is alleged to have taken part in an illicit scheme that saw more than $25,000 directed into the failed 2016 effort by former Indiana State Senator Brent Waltz to win the race to represent the state’s ninth congressional district in Washington, DC.
The newspaper reported that Keeler was at that time working as an executive for local racino operator Centaur Holdings, which was sold to Caesars Entertainment Corporation in 2018 as part of deal said to be worth around $1.7 billion. He later purportedly partnered with Indiana entrepreneur Rod Ratcliff to lead a group that established Spectacle Entertainment and bought the Midwestern state’s floating Majestic Star Casino Hotel and Majestic Star Casino Hotel II venues.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Spectacle Entertainment subsequently successfully lobbied for the right to relocate one of these Gary riverboat operations to a new and more profitable land-based site located along nearby Interstate 94. The pair purportedly followed this by getting involved in a consortium that is now bringing a new Hard Rock-branded casino to the western Indiana city of Terre Haute.
The newspaper reported that Waltz, who had been a state lawmaker for twelve years before giving up his seat for the failed congressional run, has moreover been named in the federal indictment while Indianapolis-headquartered Spectacle Entertainment is said to have used an official statement to detail that Keeler has since taken administrative leave.
Reportedly read the statement from Spectacle Entertainment…
“It is important to remember that Mr Keeler is presumed innocent of all charges. Spectacle Entertainment will have no further comment at this time.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that Keeler, who served as a Republican legislator in Indiana for 16 years in the 1980s and 90s, has furthermore had his Level One casino license suspended by the Indiana Gaming Commission. This body’s Executive Director, Sara Gonso Tait, purportedly called the matter ‘extremely serious’ in advance of explaining that the regulator has subsequently initiated its own probe into Spectacle Entertainment and former key persons at Centaur Holdings.
Reportedly read a declaration from Tait…
“The ability for this company to continue to hold an Indiana gaming license is in question. The remaining board of managers have urgent questions to answer. To say the allegations outlined in the court documents are disappointing is a vast understatement.”
Finally, the newspaper reported that Ratcliff has not been named in the indictment and is currently free from any criminal charges but resigned in June as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Spectacle Entertainment to be replaced by Jahnae Erpenbach. The businessman is additionally now purportedly not permitted ‘to exert any control or management’ over the coming Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana despite still being a substantial investor in the casino operator.
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