Lawmakers in Indiana are vowing to take action and block the state gaming regulator from inquiring into personal and financial ties of casino investors as part of its casino owner integrity rules.
Integrity Rules Should be Further Scrutinized
Ahead of the meeting of the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) on August 18, 2021, scheduled to consider whether to renew the owner’s license for the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, seven state representatives sent a letter to the chairman of the regulatory body, threatening to take action in the 2022 General Assembly and legally block the regulator from such inquiries into casino investors.
Considering the inquiries as impediments to an impetus of small investors to participate in the casino industry, state Reps. Bob Heaton, R-Terre Haute, Terri Austin, D-Anderson, Beau Baird, R-Greencastle, Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, Jeff Ellington, R-Bloomington, and Alan Morrison, R-Brazil, strongly opposed the integrity rules imposed by the IGC.
The representatives further opposed the emergency enactment of the integrity rules, vowing that such policies should be carefully examined and receive more vetting, in particular from “the state elected policy making entity,” requesting the IGC to reconsider the potential economic impact of “delaying or prohibiting any aspect of the Gary casino project and the construction of the Terre Haute gaming facility, and the potential impact upon both economically depressed communities.”
Court Decision behind the Letter
The letter sent to the IGC followed a Marion County judge’s ruling in favor of the regulator, stating state laws allow the watchdog to require investors in Spectacle and Lucy Luck Gaming, the former holder of the Terre Haute casino license, to reveal such financial details and backgrounds in order to protect the integrity of gaming in Indiana.
Considering alleged misdeeds of several former executives at Spectacle, who had known each other from their work at Centaur Gaming prior to acquiring the license for the casino in Gary, the judge ruled the IGC was well within its remit as a gaming regulator to require the submission of an application for a level 1 occupational license.
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.”
Judge John Chavis II, Marion County Court
On behalf of the IGC, executive director Sara Tait told the legislators in a letter that the watchdog had to implement the integrity rules after two former state legislators, John Keeler and Brent Waltz, both linked to Centaur Gaming, were indicted in Indianapolis in a public investigation into corruption.
Because integrity and reputation standards apply across gaming jurisdictions both here in the United States and internationally, casino licensees risk harm from associations with scandals and illegal activity. Ensuring Indiana maintains a reputation as a clean and strict gaming jurisdiction is a benefit to all stakeholders.”
Sara Tait, Executive Director, IGC
Further, Tait noted that the Terre Haute casino license renewal was declined due to a failure of Lucy Luck to become operational during the year it held the license, not because of integrity rules preventing investors.