Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana Controversy Ends, Lawsuit Withdrawn

Posted on: September 15, 2021, 06:25h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2021, 11:39h.

An Indiana judge recently dismissed a lawsuit from Spectacle Entertainment shareholders against the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC). It related to a continuing ownership controversy over Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, which opened in Gary last May.

State regulators gave the go-ahead to Spectacle to sell majority control of the casino to Hard Rock International
Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, pictured above. The Gary gaming property was engulfed with controversy until the withdrawal of a lawsuit by investors. (Image: Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana)

Marion Superior Court Judge John Chavis issued the order last week after a voluntary request from the Spectacle shareowners to withdraw the court action.

The lawsuit had challenged integrity rules for shareholders, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana. Gaming regulators required financial and background details on investors of privately held casinos.

Judge Supported IGC

In earlier decisions, Judge Chavis supported the IGC requirements.

“The IGC investigated these activities revealing undisclosed financial transactions, hidden ownership transfers, improper use of funds, improper accounting practices, ex parte communication with certain former commissioners, and other matters,” Chavis said in rulings, the Times reported.

From these events, IGC believed there were gaps in its existing rules regarding attempts to separate persons deemed unsuitable from the casino owner’s licensee,” Chavis continued. “IGC drafted the emergency rule to close this gap.”

The latest court ruling came after the IGC gave the go-ahead to Spectacle to sell majority control of the casino to Florida-based Hard Rock International. The company is to be a controlling partner in the $300 million gaming property.

As of this summer, the casino’s corporate officers are current Hard Rock International executives. No Spectacle managers will hold top spots. Also, the board is made up of Hard Rock appointees and an independent board member approved by the IGC.

In addition, Greg Gibson, a co-founder of Spectacle Entertainment, will pay minority shareholders in a buyout, the Times added.

The Hard Rock Casino gaming license was renewed by the IGC during the Aug. 18 meeting.

Gaming License Controversy

The license renewal was mired in controversy. The IGC had investigated Spectacle executives. The inquiry was tied to alleged illicit campaign contributions that date back to Centaur Gaming, a company that was owned by Spectacle founder Rod Ratcliff.

Ratcliff’s gaming license was suspended. He sued the IGC, but then reached a settlement with the commission. In addition, John Keeler, a former Spectacle and Centaur executive, was indicted on federal charges. Spectacle was also fined $530,000 by the IGC as a result of missing a deadline to disassociate from Ratcliff.

The casino was a joint project between Spectacle Entertainment and Hard Rock International. It replaced the two Majestic Star Casino boats that were anchored in Gary’s Buffington Harbor.

Hard Rock is one of the largest casinos in the state. It features more than 1,600 slot machines and more than 80 table games.