he Indiana Gaming Commission submitted a complaint with Lake Superior Court this week to permanently revoke the gaming license of longtime Indiana casino executive Rod Ratcliff.
IGC’s complaint against the former CEO and chairman of Spectacle Entertainment — the company that plans to open the new Hard Rock Casino in Gary this spring —cites numerous examples of alleged wrongdoing, including being part of a scheme to funnel corporate campaign funds to an Indiana candidate for Congress, taking company money to fund his personal horse racing betting account without reporting it and obstructing justice.
Ratcliff was chairman and CEO of Centaur Gaming from 2012 to 2018 before moving over to Spectacle Entertainment. Centaur operated two horse track racing casinos — Indiana Grand and Hoosier Park — and the Winners Circle off-track betting parlor in Indianapolis under his leadership. He was granted the license to operate Spectacle Gary in 2019, the Chicago Tribune reports.
In the complaint, filed on Monday, Dustin J. Moloy, deputy general council for the IGC, said based on what the commission knows so far, Ratcliff’s conduct presents an unprecedented set of negative circumstances involving an Indiana Gaming Commission licensee. The complaint said based on the information provided, Ratcliff doesn’t 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 license. When combined with what the commission knows so far, there should be no credible question that respondent is not fit to hold a gaming license in Indiana,” the complaint stated.
The commission did not respond to questions regarding the pending litigation.
According to the complaint, a criminal investigation filed in a Virginia court last year alleged that a gaming company based in Indianapolis in 2015 conspired to violate federal election laws by using a conduit scheme to exceed campaign contribution limits for a candidate running for Congress, Brent Waltz, of Greenwood.
Centaur was the only Indianapolis-based gaming company in 2015, according to the complaint. Ratcliff was also cited for allegedly making oral offers of employment — one for CEO of Spectacle Entertainment and one for executive vice president — to individuals with lobbying, but no gaming experience.
Spectacle Entertainment board members didn’t know of the first agreement, which was later rescinded, until two years later and the IGC didn’t act on the second offer in light of ongoing investigations, the complaint said.
Ratcliff also failed to report around $900,000 in income he received from the FastBet horse racing betting platform available at his horse racing casinos and off-track betting parlor. According to the complaint, Centaur employees would frequently deposit large sums of money into Ratcliff’s FastBet account, transferred as “marketing other.”
The complaint said Ratcliff refused to meet with the IGC on two separate occasions, thwarting effort to investigate him.
Monday’s filing follows an emergency order issued by the IGC in December calling for Ratcliff’s Indiana gaming license to be suspended for 90 days. The IGC cited Ratcliff’s lack of suitability and alleged violations of the Riverboat Gambling Act concerning his alleged involvement in the campaign finance scheme.
Ratcliff filed an administrative appeal to the order in Lake Superior Court on Jan. 4, alleging his reputation had been tarnished and his ability to sell his ownership assets in the casino were interfered with as a result of the emergency order. Ratcliff’s appeal was dismissed by the court on Jan. 27.
Jahnae Erpenbach is Spectacle Entertainment’s current CEO and chair who will head operation of the new Gary casino and now also heads operations of the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary. In a statement, Erpenbach said the present Spectacle Entertainment leadership team will continue to fully cooperate with the gaming commission.
“We believe it is in the best interest of all parties involved, including the state of Indiana, our employees, community and Hard Rock partners, that a timely resolution be reached. We are optimistic the Hard Rock Northern Indiana project will proceed as planned with minimal delay,” Erpenbach said.