Indiana’s Spectacle investigation grows, threatens new Gary casino

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Actions by certain individuals with ties to Spectacle Entertainment aren’t only hurting the casino operator’s reputation, but that of Hard Rock International (HRI), as well. Spectacle became the target of the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) this past January due to its ties with another gaming company, Centaur Gaming, that ultimately led to former Spectacle VP John Keeler being indicted on campaign fraud charges. If those close to the company thought this might be the end of the drama, they were wrong, and the IGC’s investigation is growing. This could ultimately lead to Spectacle losing its gaming license, which would threaten the $300-million casino it has been building with HRI in Gary. 

The IGC is reportedly investigating over ten people whose names have surfaced as being linked to Spectacle. They either currently have, or have previously held, licenses with the company, or with its Centaur predecessor. In a meeting held by the regulator yesterday, IGC Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait told the commissioners that all of these individuals are now being considered for possible revocation of gaming licenses, which could put Spectacle out of the picture. 

Tait added, “The scope of our review covers financial transactions, ownership transfers, contracts, failures to disclose, improper utilization of funds, improper accounting practices, failure to act within the occupational licensure parameters, ex parte communications and other actions and situations falling outside of those good moral character and integrity standards detailed throughout Indiana statutes and regulations.”

The next step could be the nail in the proverbial coffin for anyone with ties to Spectacle and/or Centaur. The company is already being led by a trustee-in-waiting, an individual appointed to oversee the company’s operations until a new entity buys them. Tom Dingman, a former executive with Harrah’s, is Spectacle’s trustee-in-waiting, and the IGC is almost ready to determine if the company needs to be dissolved or if there’s any reason to give it another chance. Susan Williams, another IGC commissioner, asserted during the meeting, “I would say maybe within the next two weeks to 30 days, we need to have something in our hands that gives us some level of comfort that this operator is either going to be with us or going to be gone.”

The ongoing investigation has reportedly included over 1,000 documents, 29 interviews and more discovery processes. Three people approached for interviews declined to participate, which won’t sit well with gaming regulators. The two individuals at Spectacle who have been able to keep a clean record, according to Tait, are its chair, Jahnae Erpenbach, and vice-chair, Greg Gibson.

Should Spectacle be stripped of all its gaming licenses, HRI will need to figure out how to move forward with the Gary casino, which is supposed to be the Hard Rock Northern Indiana. HRI has already indicated that it will push forward, regardless of the outcome of the Spectacle investigation, but will need to figure out how to work with a new partner. Currently, the venue is targeting a grand opening sometime early next year. 

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