Indiana Gaming Commission Ups Ante Against Rod Ratcliff Amid Fresh Allegations

  • IGC claims Ratcliff offered a politically connected man a CEO role in a casino-related company
  • A second allegation is that he hid a $900k personal horse-racing betting account
  • Issues with the IGC have held up the spring launch of Ratcliff's $300m Hard Rock Casino in Gary
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Rod Ratcliff continues to draw fire, with the IGB this week citing new allegations as it filed to permanently revoke his gaming license. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

IGC intent on revoking license

According to documentation submitted on February 2 in an Indiana court, the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) has filed to permanently revoke the occupational gaming license of Rod Ratcliff, principal owner of the new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana and Majestic Star Casino in Gary.

Previously, on December 23, the state gaming regulator suspended Ratcliff’s license on an emergency basis. The casino kingpin is contesting the suspension at Lake County Superior Court in Hammond, Indiana.

verbal offer of employment to a politically connected Indianapolis attorney and lobbyist

The Northwest Indiana Times reported yesterday that the newest allegations against Ratcliff include him making a verbal offer of employment to a politically connected Indianapolis attorney and lobbyist. The job on the table was CEO of Spectacle Gary, the parent company of the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.

According to the IGC, Ratcliff failed to disclose the job offer to the commission, the 3,000 ownership shares given to the individual, or the “significant monetary settlement” which transpired after he retracted the job offer.

$900k unaccounted for

One of the IGC’s new allegations that did not appear in the December suspension order was that Ratcliff failed to disclose around $900,000 in deposits to his personal horse-racing wagering account between 2015 and 2019. He did not report any resulting wins or losses either, the body said.

Ratcliff has certainly made his presence felt in Indiana, with his business activities not being to the state regulatory body’s liking. The beef goes back to when Ratcliff was owner and CEO of Indiana racino operation Centaur Gaming, up to his most recent role as CEO of Gary casino owner Spectacle Entertainment.

While at Centaur, Ratcliff was one of the executives found to have taken part in an alleged straw donor scheme to provide illegal campaign contributions to a Congressional candidate in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. The case led to Spectacle Entertainment vice president John Keeler’s federal indictment in September last year. Ratcliff, who had resigned as CEO and chairman of Spectacle in June, faced no charges.

The IGC also alleged that Ratcliff failed to submit required information about Spectacle ownership and to cooperate with its investigation. He continued being involved in the daily operations of the Spectacle Entertainment-owned Majestic Star Casino in Gary for months after he had tendered his resignations.

The IGC concluded that a perception of not significantly dealing with Ratcliff’s “multiple and brazen violations […] would send a dangerous message to other Indiana licensees that such behavior will be tolerated.” It added:

(Ratcliff’s) ongoing licensure and association with gaming in Indiana must cease.”

Ratcliff is challenging the allegations, which his spokesman Robert Vane described as “baseless”. His court filing deems the emergency suspension of his license in December – when he was also ordered to renounce his ownership stake in Spectacle – invalid.

Ratcliff causing headaches

Legal challenges and investigations involving Ratcliff have thrown a few spanners in the works of the Hoosier State’s 2021 gaming industry.

The new land-based $300m Hard Rock Casino in Gary was to replace the Majestic Star gambling boats along Lake Michigan in March or April, ahead of its spring opening. Last week, the IGC told Spectacle Entertainment, the parent company of Majestic Star, to continue running the boats until at least June, as the commission wants Ratcliff’s ownership issues resolved beforehand.

On Tuesday, Indiana businessman Greg Gibson changed the name of a holding company for a Terre Haute casino from Spectacle Jack to Lady Luck Gaming. According to the Tribune Star, the rename was to position the $125m casino project Gibson chairs as a standalone entity, with no links to Spectacle Entertainment’s Hard Rock Casino project in Gary.