Indiana Gaming Officials Say Ratcliff Has Not Resolved Trustee Issue


Posted on: January 14, 2021, 02:48h. 

Last updated on: January 14, 2021, 02:48h.

It’s been three weeks since the Indiana Gaming Commission voted to suspend Rod Ratcliff’s gaming license and order the longtime casino executive to refrain from exerting any control over Spectacle Entertainment. However, it does not appear there’s been any movement in finding someone to oversee his ownership stake.

Rod Ratcliff
The entrance to the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind. The casino is owned by Spectacle Entertainment, which is under investigation by the Indiana Gaming Commission. Last month, the Commission susupended Spectacle founder and former Chairman and CEO Rod Ratcliff as a result of what the ongoing review has uncovered. (Image: South Shore CVA)

According to Order 2020-168, which the IGC approved unanimously on Dec. 23, Ratcliff was required to restart his trust agreement and replace his current trustee “with a person acceptable to the Commission” by last Friday. The Commission defined acceptable as someone independent from the Indianapolis company and Ratcliff and not presently nor previously have any interest in a Spectacle entity or affiliate.

On Monday, the commission issued the following statement regarding the order:

Identifying the method to effectuate the Order is a priority of Commission staff and the parties are demonstrating good faith efforts to comply,” the statement read. “This matter is receiving attention daily.  A trustee has not been named as of today’s date. Provided the collaborative nature and good faith efforts continue Commission staff will not pursue action for non-compliance with Order 2020-168 without five days written notice to the parties.”

On Wednesday, the Commission confirmed to Casino.org nothing had changed since that statement.

Ratcliff, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Spectacle, had his license suspended after a nearly year-long investigation into the gaming company. The emergency suspension is slated to last 90 days. After that, the Commission may seek to revoke the license of a man who has been involved in Indiana gaming since the 1990s.

Spectacle owns the Majestic Star Casino in Gary. It’s also a partner with Hard Rock International in building Hard Rock Northern Indiana, a land-based casino in the northwest Indiana city.

Spectacle Investigation Grows

Initially, the investigation focused on illegal campaign contributions made by Centaur Gaming, Ratcliff’s former business. However, as the investigation continued, more improprieties were discovered.

The campaign contributions were part of a federal investigation. While Ratcliff has not been indicted or named directly in the case, but IGC investigators said that information they’ve obtained indicates he is an unnamed Centaur executive who met with political consultant Kelley Rogers in April 2015. That executive met with Rogers at an Indianapolis to devise a way for Centaur to fund the then Congressional campaign of Darryl Brent Waltz.

The scheme included consultants finding individuals to make contributions to Waltz Republican primary campaign for Indiana’s Ninth District. The consultants would then send bogus invoices to Centaur for purported research projects. When paid, the consultants gave refunds to listed contributors.

Both Waltz and John Keeler, a former Spectacle and Centaur executive, were indicted in September.

Rogers and another consultant, Charles O’Neil, were sentenced last year for their roles in the matter.

The IGC suspended Keeler’s license in September and at the same Dec. 23 meeting voted to terminate the license. That order gives him and Spectacle until this Friday to divest of his interests in the company.

IGC: Ratcliff Stayed Involved

In May, Ratcliff and Keeler agreed to step away from Spectacle’s involvement in another planned Hard Rock casino in Terre Haute in order to allow the IGC to approve the license for the project.

With no fanfare, Ratcliff stepped down from his role as Spectacle’s chairman, board member, and CEO a month later. He remained with the company, though, in an investor relations role. He stayed in that position until last month

In September, when news of Ratcliff’s moves became public, IGC Executive Director Sara Tait said that while he retained an ownership stake Ratcliff had been enjoined from exerting any control over Spectacle’s management of the Majestic Star.

However, at the December hearing, the IGC said it found that Ratcliff was still involved in managing the casino. Further, they found that he had failed to report several items to the IGC. First, he did not report a change in the trustee to his trust agreement. He also failed to report equity transfers and did not disclose a contract agreement involving a large monetary settlement.

The IGC said Ratcliff initially expressed an interest in sitting with IGC staff for an interview. However, he has since declined to meet.

Casino.org sent questions Wednesday to Ratcliff’s attorneys regarding the status of their client’s shares. Robert Vane, a spokesman, responded saying they would not comment at this time.

The IGC’s investigation into Spectacle remains active.

Hard Rock Gary on Hold

The investigation began on Jan. 23, 2020. That was two weeks after Spectacle and Hard Rock executives celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Gary casino with area leaders. The investigation led to a three-month delay in approving the Terre Haute license. For now, it is keeping IGC officials from allowing the Hard Rock casino in Gary from moving forward.

Assets from the Majestic Star were scheduled to be moved to the Hard Rock site this month.

“With all of the uncertainties surrounding the license, staff is focused upon maintaining the operations of the current profitable casino,” Tait said at the Dec. 23 meeting. ‘Depriving it of its valuable assets would undermine casino operations to the detriment of casino employees, the city of Gary, and of the state.”