Indiana has paused hearing all online gaming bills in 2024 after one of its former legislators recently got convicted after engaging in bribery in the 2019 gaming bill. Former Representative Sean Eberhart pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit honest services fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District filed the case.
Prosecutors stated that Eberhart used his position to support “terms favorable” for Spectacle Gaming to shift two gaming sites in the Hoosier State and get a position with a $350,000 annual salary in the company. Indiana Public Broadcasting reported that Eberhart’s plea prompted Indiana’s lawmakers to decide not to discuss iGaming in next year’s legislative session.
This is a huge blow to local gaming stakeholders who have been campaigning for the state to expand its casino industry. Indiana Senate Pro Tem Rodric stated that Eberhart’s action adversely affects the House’s integrity and it might lose the public’s confidence. Besides, it makes it difficult to take part in such a policy again.
The legislature has introduced iGaming regulations each year since 2020. Unfortunately, none of the bills has passed the committee stage.
Representative Ethan Manning, the House Public Policy Committee’s chairman authored Indiana’s 2023 gaming bill. But, the Office of Fiscal Analysis and Management prevented the proposal from advancing by releasing a fiscal note indicating that online gaming’s profit will reduce the current gaming revenue by up to 30 percent.
What Transpired Between Eberhart and Spectacle?
Eberhart was in the Public Policy House Committee. Caesars entertainment purchased Indiana Grand in 2018 and later rebranded it to Horseshoe Indianapolis. It created Spectacle Gaming.
The casino operator wanted to move its two casinos near Lake Michigan to Vigo County and Gary. The proposed constitutional amendment about the two casino licenses’ relocation comprised a transfer fee.
The federal charges stated that an anonymous Spectacle Gaming owner promised to employ Eberhart in the future and give him a huge annual salary. The former legislator accepted the deal and added language into the regulation which reduced the companies transfer charges from $100 million to $20 million.
Spectacle Gaming collaborated with Hard Rock to launch the two casinos in Vigo County and Gary. Hard Rock Northern Indiana launched in May 2021 and is among the leading gaming income generators in the state. Nevertheless, Spectacle acquired 85 percent ownership of the casino in August after its then-CEO Rod Ratcliff gave up his casino owner’s license and ownership stake after the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) accused him of several violations.
Ractliff’s decision to sell his ownership stake affected Vigo County where Spectacle Gaming had a Spectacle Jack gaming license. It opted to sell the license to Greg Gibson, Spectacle’s co-founder who rebranded the casino Lucky Luck. Unfortunately, the IGC reopened the license application process in 2021 after turning down Lucky Luck’s renewal application.
It helped Churchill Downs defeat its three rivals in the November 2021 license bid. The gaming operator started offering casino games at the property in June 2022.
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