The Indiana Gaming Commission is ready to proceed with revoking the license of long-time casino owner Rod Ratcliff. That’s according to documentation filed Tuesday in an Indiana court.
Ratcliff, most recently the chairman and CEO of Spectacle Entertainment, held a similar position with Centaur Gaming. During that time, authorities allege, Centaur executives participated in a scheme to provide illegal campaign contributions to a Congressional candidate.
The commission temporarily suspended Ratcliff’s license during a Dec. 23 meeting.
Ratcliff has not been charged in the case. However, IGC investigators believe he is an unnamed executive who met with a campaign consultant to set up the scheme.
In addition, over the course of the year-long investigation, IGC officials said they uncovered other violations of Indiana gaming law. Those allegations include failing to update records, including not revealing secret transfers of Spectacle stock and not alerting the commission to a change of his trustee.
The commission also claims Ratcliff continued to be involved in the daily operations of the Spectacle-owned Majestic Star Casino in Gary even after he stepped down as Spectacle chairman and CEO. That was despite an order from IGC Executive Director Sara Tait directing him to refrain from exerting any authority.
In the filing, the IGC said those issues and others in the document don’t leave it any choice in the matter.
Based on the information in this Complaint, Respondent does not have the high standards of character and reputation required of a licensee in Indiana,” the complaint stated. “Any one of these matters, individually, should lead to revocation of his licensee.”
The investigation put Ratcliff’s license at risk, but it also delays the transfer of assets from the Majestic Star riverboats to Hard Rock Northern Indiana. That is a $300 million land-based casino in Gary slated to open this spring.
The revocation resolution includes at least one new allegation against Ratcliff that did not appear in the suspension order.
Ratcliff led Centaur, which owned the state’s two racinos and an off-track betting parlor in Indianapolis. The IGC claims its employees would make large deposits, totaling about $900,000, to at least one FastBet account in Ratcliff’s name. FastBet is an advanced-deposit wagering platform for racing.
The IGC said the funds were transferred from the tracks’ casinos under a “marketing other” category for the racinos and OTB. The deposits happened over a four-year period, beginning in 2015.
Ratcliff provided the IGC with other gaming win/loss statements in a 2018 gaming license application. That included winnings from 2015 to 2018. However, the commission said he did not disclose the $900,000 FastBet deposits.
The FastBet issue, the commission said, may lead to “additional derogatory” revelations. That includes failing to adhere to state racing regulations, failing to remain in state and federal tax compliance, and failing to maintain and submit accounting documentation.
Ratcliff “had multiple opportunities to provide Commission investigators with mitigating evidence, yet he has failed to do so,” the resolution states.
The revocation request was filed in a Lake County Superior Court, where Ratcliff has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the suspension of his license. Gary is located in Lake County.
In the suit, filed Jan. 20, Ratcliff claims the commission improperly used an emergency justification to issue the suspension. It also claims the agency wants to force Ratcliff to sell his stake in Spectacle to Hard Rock International.
Last week, the commission filed a motion to move the lawsuit from Lake County, where Spectacle’s casinos are located, to Marion County. home of the state capital, Indianapolis. The IGC’s office and Spectacle Entertainment’s headquarters are located there.
Ratcliff has 30 days to respond to that request.
In a statement to Casino.org, Ratcliff representative Robert Vane said his client is reviewing the commission’s revocation request.
Mr. Ratcliff… looks forward to his day in court to contest these baseless allegations,” Vane said. “The IGC’s recent motion also seems, finally, to concede that the IGC acted hastily and improperly in suspending Mr. Ratcliff’s license on a temporary basis, rather than proceed with a full hearing on the merits of the IGC’s allegations.”
Ratcliff got his start in Indiana gaming back in the 1990s. He formed a partnership to land a riverboat casino license in Lawrenceburg, Ind., near Cincinnati. He also formed Centaur, which partnered with Churchill Downs to bring pari-mutuel horse racing to the state. After selling his stake in the Lawrenceburg casino, Centaur eventually owned the state’s two racinos, Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand.
He sold those to Caesars Entertainment in 2018 and formed Spectacle a short time later.