Ratcliff Deal with Indiana Gaming Commission Allows Hard Rock Casino to Proceed

Rod Ratcliff, a longtime Indiana gaming executive who has been under investigation by state regulators, has reached a settlement to sell his shares of Spectacle Entertainment. That’s according to orders posted by the Indiana Gaming Commission on Tuesday.

Rod Ratcliff
Rod Ratcliff
Rod Ratcliff speaks during his induction into the Indiana Horse Racing Association Hall of Fame in November 2019. On Tuesday, he accepted a deal with the Indiana Gaming Commission, Hard Rock International, and Spectacle Entertainment to sell his Spectacle shares and retire from the gaming business. (Image: Coady Photography)

With the deal, Ratcliff has sold his shares to Greg Gibson, his partner in Spectacle, and Hard Rock International. In January 2020, Hard Rock and Spectacle broke ground on a $300 million land-based casino in Gary. That project, though, has been delayed for months after IGC Executive Commissioner Sara Gonso Tait ordered a halt to transferring assets from Spectacle’s Majestic Star Casino to Hard Rock Northern Indiana.

The agreement allows for Hard Rock Northern Indiana to resume work. In addition, Ratcliff has waived his right to challenge or appeal the order.

The investigation into Spectacle started in January 2020, just a couple weeks after the Hard Rock groundbreaking. That’s when state regulators learned that Ratcliff’s former gaming company was implicated in a federal investigation regarding illegal campaign contributions to a congressional candidate.

Over the course the review, the Commission said it found evidence that not only was Ratcliff  involved in the campaign contribution scheme but that other violations were discovered. Among those allegations were unreported stock transfers and an undisclosed horse racing account. Those charges and more led the IGC to seek revocation of his license.

Ratcliff and his attorneys countered that the gaming executive was not indicted by federal authorities. They also claimed the state was trying to coerce him into selling his shares to Hard Rock at a lower price.

Ratcliff Out “On His Own Terms”

In a statement, Ratcliff spokesman Robert Vane said his clients was happy to see the state stop its “unfair prosecution” and reach an accord to everyone’s benefit.

With this settlement agreement, Rod achieves what he wanted from the very beginning of this ordeal—to retire from Indiana gaming on his own terms,” Vane said.

In her statement, Tait said she consulted with IGC Chairman Michael McMains to approve an ownership transfer that will lead to the dismissal of all administrative and state judicial cases related to the case.

Even with that, the investigation into Spectacle has not been closed.

Since November, the Commission has sought to find a way to resume the Gary casino project under what Tait called “difficult and unprecedented circumstances.” She said casino project was a vital one for the city, state, and employees of the Majestic Star. Those workers, plus hundreds of new hires, will move to the Hard Rock casino once its ready to open.

However, there appears to be some work still to do between the remaining shareholders at Spectacle and Hard Rock International. While enough had been settled to resume the asset transfers between the Majestic Star and Hard Rock Northern Indiana, Tait said that the two sides still had not reached an agreement on all issues between them.

Hard Rock and Spectacle Entertainment will be asked to address the Commission at its March meeting, with a focus on additional remedial efforts and commitments moving forward,” Tait said.

That meeting is set to take place on March 23.

Hard Rock, Spectacle Look Forward to New Casino

In a statement, Hard Rock International COO Jon Lucas said the settlement with Ratcliff will not only allow the Gary casino to move forward but one planned for Terre Haute as well.

“Through this settlement, we have increased our ownership in the northern Indiana project while continuing to be the manager for the upcoming Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana property,” Lucas said. “We are excited to put this chapter behind us and look forward to working with the Indiana Gaming Commission and our partners to bring this amazing project to fruition in the next few months.”

In Spectacle’s statement, Chair and CEO Jahnae Erpenbach said the company could not comment on the details but added the Indiana-based gaming company was glad to reach a deal between all parties.

“We appreciate the cooperation and assistance of the Indiana Gaming Commission, as well as those who worked diligently to resolve this situation,” she said. “We look forward to the successful opening of Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana and the substantial benefit it will bring to our team members, community and guests.”

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