Indiana Gaming Board Orders Ratcliff Out

The Indiana Gaming Commission ordered Spectacle Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Rod Ratcliff (l.) to cede his ownership share, saying though he resigned from Spectacle, he continued to exert control. Spectacle VP John Keeler also was ordered to give up his share.

Indiana Gaming Board Orders Ratcliff Out

Spectacle Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Rod Ratcliff recently was forced to give up his ownership stake in the company, under an order from the Indiana Gaming Commission. The IGC said Ratcliff continued to exert control even after he resigned from Spectacle in June. The move follows a federal investigation into allegations that Spectacle Vice President John Keeler allegedly funneled corporate money to a former state lawmaker’s unsuccessful congressional campaign.

Previously, Ratcliff and Keeler gave up their ownership in Spectacle’s planned $125 million casino in Terre Haute to businessman Greg Gibson, a Spectacle partner who was not implicated in the federal investigation.

The IGB also approved a 90-day emergency suspension of Ratcliff’s state casino license and gave him until January 8 to turn over to a trustee his stake in Spectacle, which owns the Majestic Star casino in Gary. Ratcliff’s attorneys told the commission he had reached an agreement to sell his ownership stake to attorney Steve Grimes and that he would leave the company even though he has not been charged with any crimes. The commission also gave Keeler until January 15 to sell his interest in Spectacle; it had suspended his casino license in September.

The gaming board’s action also raises questions about Spectacle’s partnership with Hard Rock International to build a new $300 million casino in Gary. Hard Rock Chief Operating Officer Jon Lucas said the company still is committed to the “successful completion” of the Gary casino project, expected to open this spring.

IGB Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait said no gambling machines could be removed from the Majestic Star until uncertainty over the new casino’s ownership is clarified. IGB member Susan Williams said the commission should not consider the proposed Ratcliff sale deal unless Hard Rock agrees to it. “In the meantime, the state’s in jeopardy, the community in Gary is in jeopardy, employees are in jeopardy because we’ve got a project we have to deal with and dealing with it in the midst of this chaos makes me very uncomfortable,” Williams said.

Spectacle Entertainment said in a statement it hoped for a quick resolution and that the new Gary casino could “proceed as planned with minimal delay.”

Dan Webb, another Ratcliff attorney, said the IGB’s orders were “based on politically motivated rumors and speculation instead of facts” and that Ratcliff was considering his legal options. “Rather than hold a hearing before a judge where these rumors could be vetted or challenged, the commission instead chose to put the penalty before the process, which is improper,” Webb said in a statement.