February 2, 2021 Casino, Legal, Land-Based

Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana faces delay over ownership battle

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The opening of new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana faces a possible delay over an ongoing legal fight between former Spectacle Entertainment CEO Rod Ratcliff and the Indiana Gaming Commission.

The Northwest Indiana Times reports the casino could sit empty for months while Spectacle works out its future post Ratcliff. Spectacle is the parent company of Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana operator Majestic Star Casino.

The IGC wants Majestic Star to continue operating its two riverboats on Lake Michigan to keep employees working and gaming revenue flowing into the state. The Hard Rock was slated to open in Gary, Indiana, near Chicago, sometime in spring 2021.

Spectacle acquired Majestic Star in early 2019. That summer Majestic Star announced it would rebrand its northern Indiana casino as a land-based property in partnership with Hard Rock.

The casino carries a $300m price tag and is to include approximately 1,650 slots, 80 table games, a sportsbook, an entertainment venue and several restaurants.

Spectacle is caught up in a messy divorce with Ratcliff, who had his gaming license suspended last year after he was linked to an alleged straw donor scheme, which included funneling money from an Indiana gaming property to support a politician’s 2016 congressional bid.

The Northwest Indiana Times reports the IGC imposed a 90-day emergency suspension of Ratcliff’s license in December. Ratcliff filed a lawsuit against the IGC in January, arguing he was denied due process and suffered reputational harm.

Ratcliff is still a significant shareholder of Spectacle.

“The new inland casino in Gary is important to the state and local community. The commission is focused on seeing the project completed and operational,” said Sara Tait, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, to the Northwest Indiana Times.

“Unfortunately, the actions of parties associated with Spectacle have created a high level of uncertainty regarding both suitability and project timeline. Until an acceptable path forward is identified, the commission will continue to act within its authority to protect gaming revenues and employees at the current operation in Gary.”

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