Ex-Indiana Lawmaker Pleading Guilty in Casino Corruption Case

  • Sean Eberhart accepted a future job offer in return for helping push a favorable bill
  • His future annual salary was to be at least $350,000 at Spectacle Entertainment
  • The casino company has been embroiled in numerous scandals in recent years
Businessmen exchanging cash
A former Indiana lawmaker will plead guilty to accepting a future job at a casino company in return for pushing favorable legislation. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Getting caught out

Casino companies trying to win favor with politicians is nothing new. They often hire expensive lobbyists to try to gain support for different types of reasons. One former lawmaker in Indiana is to plead guilty to accepting a promise of a lucrative future job from a gambling company in return for supporting certain General Assembly measures.

carries a possible five-year prison sentence

Sean Eberhart intends to submit a guilty plea for conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. This type of offense carries a possible five-year prison sentence and a fine of $250,000.

The 57-year-old allegedly accepted the job offer from Spectacle Entertainment, a company that was trying to buy two casinos in 2018 and secure their respective licenses. The facilities were on Lake Michigan and Spectacle wanted to move the casinos to Terry Haute and downtown Gary.

An extensive scheme

Both houses in the legislature and the governor had to approve both the purchasing of the casinos and the movement of the licenses. Eberhart was a part of the House Committee on Public Policy in 2019 when a relocation bill was under consideration. This committee was tasked with overseeing gambling in the state and the prospective bill contained a “transfer fee.”

Eberhart was a Republican state representative in Indiana for 16 years until his retirement in November 2022.

Prosecutors claim that Eberhart used his position to vote in favor of the bill and to successfully push its case among the other committee members. He was also trying to do so in a manner that was favorable for Spectacle, including by dropping the transfer fee from $100m to $20m, as well as securing advantageous tax incentives.

Eberhart was to get a future job at the casino company in return for these efforts, with the salary allegedly to be no less than $350,000 per year. The prosecutors have text messages between the former lawmaker and a Spectacle executive regarding the efforts to push through the bill. Investigators also have call records, document images, and covert recordings of conversations.

No stranger to controversy

Spectacle broke ground on the $300m casino project in Gary not long before the Indiana Gaming Commission started investigating the company, with its Terre Haute project proposal getting denied. This probe led to CEO Rod Ratcliff and Vice President John Keeler being removed from their roles. Hard Rock International took over control of the Gary casino following the scandal.

forced him to surrender his ownership in two casinos

Keeler was also sentenced last year for aiding in the illegal funneling of gambling money into former state Senator Brent Waltz’s bid in 2016 to get into Congress. The Indiana Gaming Commission forced him to surrender his casino ownership following the indictment for his role in helping to funnel about $40,000 to Waltz’s campaign and also making false statements to the FBI.

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