The Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary has been under scrutiny. Top executives have faced criminal and financial misconduct allegations, putting the casino’s future in doubt.
Change is now coming. On Wednesday, the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) approved Hard Rock International’s takeover of the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary. Hard Rock International will assume at least 85% ownership from Indianapolis-based Spectacle Entertainment.
The IGC previously made two former top Spectacle executives relinquish their ownership stakes following charges by federal prosecutors that they were making illegal campaign contributions with casino company money.
“We believe in the project and feel good about being in this community and in this jurisdiction,” Hard Rock Chief Operating Officer, Jon Lucas, told the Associated Press. “This was the way to resolve it. We’re more than willing to do that.”
Previously, Florida-based Hard Rock had been operating the new $300 million casino in Gary since its debut in May.
During Wednesday’s session, IGC Gaming Commission Chairman Michael McMains noted he appreciated Hard Rock’s “heavy lifting” to remedy the ownership issues with the casino in Gary.
Former Spectacle CEO Rod Ratcliff ended more than a decade as a key player in the Indiana gambling industry when he agreed to give up his ownership stake and state casino license. Ratcliff and Spectacle came under investigation by state casino officials in early 2020 after filing campaign contribution charges involving Spectacle vice president John Keeler.
The IGC noted Ratcliff was involved in the scheme, and state officials have alleged Ratcliff exerted control over Spectacle in violation of state orders. Ratcliff was accused of wrongly funneling nearly $1 million in casino company money into his own horse wagering account and made improper job offers to government lobbyists.
The mess with Spectacle also forced the company to give up ownership of the Terre Haute casino project. Terre Haute was looking to become the first new area to get a casino since 2008, but state officials forced Spectacle to hand over ownership of the project to businessman Greg Gibson.
Gibson and Hard Rock had an agreement for Hard Rock to operate the planned $125 million casino facility, but the IGC voted against renewing the license for Gibson’s company since an executive team had not been hired and full financing had yet to be secured.
Sept. 22 is the deadline for interested companies to submit proposals for the Terre Haute casino license.