What to know about casino scheme at Indiana statehouse as former lawmaker enters plea

Former state Rep. Sean Eberhart is scheduled to plead responsible to conspiracy expenses Tuesday morning on the federal courthouse in Indianapolis ― the most recent domino to fall in a years-long entanglement between state lawmakers and the on line casino business.

Federal prosecutors allege Eberhart, a Republican from Shelbyville who served within the Common Meeting from 2007 to 2022, influenced a key gaming invoice in 2019 to learn on line casino operator Spectacle Leisure in change for the promise of a job paying $350,000 a yr.

State Rep. Sean Eberhart provided his remarks at Indiana Grand Racing & On line casino Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019

Eberhart is not the primary inside Spectacle’s sphere of affect to face down jail time, and he is not anticipated to be the final.

Final yr, two different state lawmakers pleaded responsible to expenses associated to an alleged straw donor scheme involving New Centaur LLC, Spectacle’s predecessor. One is now difficult his sentence.

Federal prosecutors allege there are “others recognized and unknown” who “conspired” with Eberhart to commit fraud.

Listed below are the gamers and what’s recognized to this point.

What are Spectacle and Centaur?

New Centaur LLC, generally known as Centaur, was an Indianapolis-based on line casino firm that owned Indiana’s two horse-racing casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville. Rod Ratcliff was founder and CEO.

In July 2018, Las Vegas-based Caesars Leisure acquired Centaur. After the sale, Ratcliff began Spectacle Leisure, bringing together with him a number of high executives from Centaur.

In this May 16, 2013, photo, Rod Ratcliff, then-CEO of Centaur Gaming, owner of Indiana's two horse track-casinos, gestures during an interview. (Danese Kenon/The Indianapolis Star)

On this Might 16, 2013, picture, Rod Ratcliff, then-CEO of Centaur Gaming, proprietor of Indiana’s two horse track-casinos, gestures throughout an interview. (Danese Kenon/The Indianapolis Star)

Spectacle purchased two casinos on Lake Michigan in Gary and wished transfer them inland to downtown Gary and Terre Haute. In early 2019, the Indiana Gaming Fee accepted Spectacle’s request to purchase the on line casino licenses; Spectacle wanted a invoice from the Common Meeting to approve the relocation.

That’s the place Eberhart’s case is available in. Federal prosecutors allege he performed a key function in negotiating points of a 2019 gaming invoice in Spectacle’s favor, together with lowering the payment related to transferring these on line casino licenses to new places from $100 million to $20 million. That invoice turned regulation in Might 2019.

Who has been indicted previously?

Former state Sen. Brent Waltz, a Republican from Greenwood, and state representative-turned-casino govt John Keeler had been indicted in 2020 on expenses that they conspired to funnel greater than $40,000 from Centaur to Waltz’s failed congressional marketing campaign in 2015.

Keeler, then the vice chairman and basic counsel at Centaur, allegedly funneled this cash by means of Maryland-based political advisor Kelley Rogers beneath the guise of paying for consulting companies.

John Keeler, general counsel for Spectacle Entertainment, talks about his company's desire to move two of their casino licenses during discussion about gaming in the House Public Policy Committee, Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

John Keeler, basic counsel for Spectacle Leisure, talks about his firm’s need to maneuver two of their on line casino licenses throughout dialogue about gaming within the Home Public Coverage Committee, Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

Ratcliff resigned from Spectacle in June 2020, amid intensifying scrutiny from each the FBI and the Indiana Gaming Fee. The gaming fee that December stripped Keeler and Ratcliff of their gaming licenses. Ratcliff sued, and as a part of a settlement agreed to finish his involvement within the on line casino business in Indiana. Ratcliff has by no means been charged with any crimes.

In 2021, a grand jury added one other cost to Keeler’s listing: tax fraud. They allege Keeler listed the funds to the out-of-state political consultants as a deductible enterprise expense on Centaur’s 2016 tax return, once they had been truly political contributions.

In mid 2022, each Waltz and Keeler pleaded responsible shortly earlier than their trial was set to start. As a part of Keeler’s plea deal, prosecutors dropped the straw-donor expenses, and Keeler solely served time for the one tax fraud cost.

After Waltz completed his jail time in March, he filed an affidavit in search of to overturn his sentence, claiming he had an ineffective lawyer throughout negotiations in 2022.

Earlier controversies involving Spectacle

The legal circumstances are simply a few of the controversies tied to Centaur and Spectacle.

A former Centaur govt, Kyle Waggoner, quietly pleaded responsible in 2021 to creating an unlawful marketing campaign contribution in violation of Indiana’s ban on political giving by on line casino pursuits.

Prosecutors offered few particulars concerning the cost in opposition to Waggoner, however state Sen. Mark Messmer, who carried the 2019 gaming invoice within the Senate, advised IndyStar he believed a contribution to his marketing campaign from a good friend of Waggoner’s was at situation within the legal case. Messmer has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Listed below are a few of the different ties between the on line casino firms and elected officers which have raised moral questions:

  • Ratcliff handled Gov. Eric Holcomb to 2 private-jet flights in 2018. One among them befell only a day earlier than Ratcliff introduced plans to amass the 2 on line casino licenses in Gary and was not initially disclosed in required filings with the IRS. An investigation by the Indiana inspector basic discovered no violations of the state’s ethics legal guidelines.

  • Ratcliff’s companion and fellow investor in Spectacle, Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson, organized a probably profitable authorized contract in 2018 for then-Indiana Home Speaker Brian Bosma, an lawyer, to advise the Vigo County Capital Enchancment Board, of which Gibson was a member on the time. Bosma recused himself from votes on the 2019 gaming invoice.

  • Spectacle employed state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, for title work and shutting companies in 2018. Torr then voted in favor of the 2019 laws that may have allowed Spectacle to maneuver its on line casino licenses to extra profitable places. He advised IndyStar he gave up his estimated $3,000 to $4,000 fee from the take care of Spectacle previous to the vote. He has introduced plans to retire after the 2024 session.

Contact IndyStar state authorities and politics reporter Kayla Dwyer at kdwyer@indystar.com or comply with her on Twitter @kayla_dwyer17.

This text initially appeared on Indianapolis Star: Ex-Rep. Sean Eberhart newest to plead responsible in casino-related schemes

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