The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana will soon be working under new ownership. After a couple of top former executives faced criminal and financial misconduct allegations, the casino is set to be taken over. The new owner stepping in is Hard Rock International. The Florida-based conglomerate has already been running the establishment since its opening in May.
Hard Rock International Northwestern Indiana Casino Takeover?
On Wednesday, ICG (Indiana Gaming Commission) confirmed the agreement which will see Hard Rock International assume at least 85% of the casino ownership. The financial details of the contract are yet to be revealed. When it opened in May, the estimated value of the gaming facility was $300 million. Hard Rock will take over from the former owners, locally-based Spectacle Entertainment. Prior to the deal, two former Spectacle executives were forced to relinquish their stake at the Gary-based casino after allegedly mishandling the casino money.
Hard Rock’s CEO, John Lucas, stated that the company was more than ready to step up and save the Northwestern Indiana casino. They believe in the project and feel good about this community and this jurisdiction. He added that, right now, the focus is on resolving the property issues and alleviating any concerns from the state regulators. ICG expressed their welcome to the new owners. The Chairman of the Commission, Michael McMains, said that they appreciate Hard Rock’s efforts in clarifying property disputes.
Shady Dealings of Former Ownership?
Former CEO of Spectacle Entertainment, Rod Ratcliffe, was a key figure in the Indiana gaming industry for more than a decade. However, he’s been under federal investigation since early 2020. Along with his partner, Spectacle’s VP John Keeler, he faced scrutiny after fees were raised for the campaign’s contribution. Ratcliffe allegedly transferred more than $1 million of casino funds into his own personal betting account. In addition, ICG claims that he made improper job offers to the government lobbyists. These issues were the main reason behind the delayed opening of the casino earlier this year. The casino was initially set to be opened the last New Year’s Eve. Investigation into Ratcliffe’s dealings pushed the opening to May.
For his part, former Spectacle’s CEO denied any violations and wrongdoing. At the moment, he’s still awaiting federal charges on the campaign case. The other executive involved, John Keeler, is currently awaiting trial on the charges.
Another Indiana Casino Project on the Rocks
The allegations also had an impact on Spectacle’s business dealings. The company was supposed to open another casino in the Terre Haute area. It was supposed to be the first gaming facility in the area since 2008, but last year, the state Government force the company to give up its ownership of the project. The new owner was businessman Greg Gibson. Gibson made an agreement with Hard Rock to operate the $125 million casinos but in June, ICG voted against renewing his casino license.
At the moment, the project remains in a sort of limbo. The interested parties have until September 22 to submit proposals for the Terre Haute license. John Lucas said that Hard Rock remains interested in the project. He didn’t disclose whether the company will pursue the license, but they will closely follow the situation.