Gaming commission postpones Terre Haute casino meeting as it launches investigation into Spectacle Entertainment
Saturday 25th January 2020
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The proposed casino property on Terre Haute's eastside may sit empty a little while longer. That's as the Indiana Gaming Commission has postponed its upcoming meeting on the casino proposal.
A statement News 10 received said the commission is investigating Spectacle Entertainment.
You'll recall, Spectacle Entertainment was the lone bid for the Vigo County casino license.
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The commission had set a February 7 hearing to possibly award the license to Spectacle - but for now, that's on hold.
It ties back to a federal court case in Arlington, Virginia.
After learning next month's meeting was canceled, we reached out to the Indiana Gaming Commission to learn why. The commission's deputy director sent us the following statement:
"The Indiana Gaming Commission is aware of information contained in court filings in the Eastern District of Virginia yesterday referencing an Indiana gaming company based in Indianapolis in 2015, which we understand to be Centaur Gaming. Certain key people in that company now own and operate Spectacle Gaming, the holder of the Majestic Star Casino license in Gary. Spectacle is also currently undertaking a land-based casino project in Gary and pursuing the new casino license in Vigo County.
The information we received is concerning and the Commission has begun a review pursuant to its statutory responsibilities into this matter.
The meeting tentatively scheduled for February 7th to consider awarding the Vigo County casino license has been postponed in order for the Commission to supplement its investigation of Spectacle. We are working to ascertain the immediate impacts of this information upon the new casino construction project in Gary. Majestic Star Casino will continue normal operations at this time."
Postponing the meeting in Vigo County will allow the commission more time to investigate Spectacle.
On Thursday, Charles O'Neil pleaded guilty in federal court in Arlington. He was the vice president of 'Strategic Campaign Group.'
LINK | SPECTACLE ENTERTAINMENT WAS THE ONLY COMPANY TO APPLY FOR A VIGO COUNTY CASINO
O'Neil admitted to funneling illegal corporate donations from an Indianapolis gaming company to a candidate running for Congress in IndianaCourt documents don't name the company or candidate, however, by using online federal election commission records - News 10 confirmed that candidate as Republican Brent Waltz, who lost in the 2016 Primary in the 9th Congressional District.
In a written statement, Spectacle Entertainment said:
"Spectacle Entertainment has been made aware that a paid consulting firm, who once contracted with Centaur Gaming, has been implicated in charges related to campaign finance violations in Virginia. Spectacle pledges to fully cooperate with the Indiana Gaming Commission as it investigates this matter. We take such matters very seriously and we will share more information should additional details become available."
We reached out to Indiana Senator Jon Ford. He says Indiana's regulations are some of the toughest in the country.
"Our gaming regulations are some of the toughest in the country. We are known to put a lot on vendors and applicants. It's not a huge surprise that this is delayed a little bit," Ford said.
We asked Ford if he's concerned about the bid.
"It's concerning that these allegations are out there but the IGC (Indiana Gaming Commission) will do it's due diligence to see if Spectacle was involved."
The Indiana Gaming Commission also addressed Spectacle's new Gary, Indiana casino.
The company broke ground on it earlier this month. The commission says it is working to figure out the immediate impacts of the developments on that casino's construction.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said things are a little uncertain right now. He hopes local partners can overcome this speedbump in the road.
"The gaming commission is a very professional group, they really dig into this stuff. I have always felt good about what they do to investigate anybody who has a license or wants a license. So I guess in some, you know, things shake out and that's their job to vet those things and decide whether a particular entity is the right one or not. They'll get that sorted out and we'll all move on from that," Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said.
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We also spoke with Vigo County Commissioner Brad Anderson. He said a casino in Terre Haute is a great opportunity in the community that brings the potential for tourism and more jobs.
"From what I understand, it was in 2015. There was no talk of Spectacle or anything like that, you know, in our community. You know, not knowing anything about Spectacle other than they are a large company. We just look at it as a great opportunity for our community with the jobs and the investment that Spectacle is willing to pay. The referendum showed that people want the gambling here - the majority. And the income and the tourism side of it," Anderson said.
We will continue to follow this developing story and bring you the latest information as we learn more.