INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Gaming Commission approved the license for a new casino Friday despite ties between its ownership and longtime state casino executives entangled in a federal criminal investigation.
The commission’s vote to grant a license for the planned Terre Haute casino came nearly four months after the process was put on hold after a political consultant pleaded guilty to federal charges in Virginia of illegally funneling campaign contributions for an Indianapolis-based casino company.
Approval for the project was possible because Spectacle Entertainment executives Rod Ratcliff and John Keeler have given up their ownership stake in what had been a Spectacle subsidiary formed for the Terre Haute casino, said Jennifer Reske, the Gaming Commission’s deputy director.
Ratcliff and Keeler were leaders of the former Centaur Gaming and among those who formed Spectacle after selling Centaur’s two Indiana horse track casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville to Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp. in 2018 for $1.7 billion.
Centaur was identified by officials as being involved in a scheme directing more than $15,000 in illegal corporate contributions to an unsuccessful Indiana congressional candidate, but no charges have been filed against the company or its executives.
Reske said the commission wanted to see the planned $125 million casino in Terre Haute advance but could not do so without the ownership changes.
Keeler, who is Spectacle’s general counsel, didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday.