Indiana Online Casinos Off The Table In 2024 Following Corruption Scandal

Posted on November 29, 2023 - Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Indiana online casinos are off the table for now. Lawmakers won’t consider gaming measures during Indiana’s next legislative session after a former state lawmaker pled guilty to a federal corruption charge.

Earlier this month, officials charged Sean Eberhart with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. He agreed to plead guilty earlier this month. He is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The scandal stems from him taking money from a casino company in exchange for passing laws favorable to the state gaming industry. Furthermore, those companies guaranteed him future employment.

As a result, state lawmakers said gaming legislation won’t go anywhere in 2024.

Ex-Indiana lawmaker’s support was for sale

Indiana lawmakers have discussed online casino legislation for the last three years. However, a bill to legalize Indiana online casinos has not reached Gov. Eric Holcomb‘s desk.

After Eberhart’s guilty plea, lawmakers won’t take a fourth crack at it next year.

Senate President Rodric Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston have agreed not to pursue gaming legislation in the 2024 session.

“It taints the Statehouse. It diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the Statehouse,” said Bray. “It causes an awful lot of problems and it makes it particularly difficult to engage in that kind of policy.”

Federal prosecutors accused Eberhart of taking a $350,000 salary from Spectacle Gaming. The payment guaranteed his support for Indiana sports betting legislation.

Eberhart supported and promoted the bill, which authorized sports betting at riverboats, racinos, and associated satellite facilities. It also slashed the state’s casino license relocation fee from $100 million to $20 million. Additionally, it pushed forward a bill to provide tax incentives for casinos.

Spectacle Gaming already facing scrutiny

Spectacle Gaming stood to materially benefit from the bill’s passage. Thus, federal authorities deemed it necessary to charge Eberhart with corruption charges.

In late 2018, the company bought two Indiana casino licenses from Majestic Holdco. The move gave the gaming operator the two Majestic Star riverboat casinos. Then, Spectacle wanted to relocate to a more lucrative area.

According to prosecutors, Eberhart, a member of the Indiana House Committee on Public Policy, used his position to successfully advocate for the relocation and obtain other favorable terms for the company. Spectacle then spent $300 million to build a new land-based casino, which opened in May 2021 as Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.

This is not the first time Spectacle has been the subject of a federal investigation.

In 2022, longtime casino executive John Keeler and former Sen. Brent Waltz were sentenced for their role in a scheme to illegally funnel gambling money into the lawmaker’s unsuccessful 2016 bid for Congress.

The Indiana Gaming Commission forced Spectacle officials to relinquish ownership stakes in Gary and Terre Haute casino projects.

Waltz, a Republican from Greenwood, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for helping route about $40,000 in illegal contributions to his campaign and making false statements to the FBI.

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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at PlayIndiana. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino, sports betting and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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