Lobbyist Tied To Casino Scandal Company Running For Office

Posted on April 27, 2022

Matthew Whetstone is hoping to claim House District 25 during Indiana’s May 3 primary. That’s raising some eyebrows due to his ties with Spectacle Entertainment.

Whetstone has a long history of working directly with some of the Spectacle executives that were responsible for the company’s multi-year casino scandal.

Spectacle Entertainment and Whetstone

Whetstone was originally a state representative.

However, during his time in office, Whetstone supported measures that raised the value of Spectacle’s assets.

As the top Republican on the House public policy committee, Whetstone co-authored a proposal to allow Centaur Gaming to add slot machines to its casinos. Centaur later changed its name to Spectacle Entertainment.

Whetstone resigned from the legislature back in 2007 to become a lobbyist. His resignation came almost immediately after the move to add slot machines.

Adding slots made drastically improved the value of those casinos. Spectacle ended up selling both properties to Caesars Entertainment for $1.7 billion.

Spectacle went on to purchase the old Majestic Star riverboat casinos, hoping to move them to better locations. At the time, Indiana casinos were not allowed to move from riverboats to land-based buildings.

This is when Whetstone enters the picture again.

Spectacle hired Whestone’s lobbying firm to help convince lawmakers to let the company move the casinos.

The company got its wish, and eventually, those casinos became Hard Rock Northern Indiana and Queen of Terre Haute.

Spectacle’s owner ended up adjacent to a casino scandal, which is where Whetstone helping the company so much becomes potentially problematic.

Spectacle Entertainment casino scandal

Whetstone’s firm spent plenty of time at the Statehouse vying for Spectacle Entertainment, which was one of his clients.

During that stretch, Whetstone was working with Rod Ratcliff, Spectacle’s former owner. Ratcliff has since been banned from Indiana’s gambling industry for his ties to the Spectacle scandal.

Ratcliff has never been charged with any sort of criminal wrongdoing, although the same can’t be said for his former associates.

John Keeler and Brent Waltz both pleaded guilty to their roles in the Spectacle scandal earlier this month. Keeler was a former executive at Spectacle who illegally funneled money into Waltz’s unsuccessful political campaign.

Spectacle’s fishy job offer for Whetstone

Back in early 2021, the Indiana Gaming Commission accused Ratcliff of some strange behavior.

The commission had concerns about his job offer for a lobbyist. The group never identified that lobbyist by name, but the timing and framing point to it being Whetstone.

Whetstone had no experience working in the casino industry at the time.

Despite that, Ratcliff offered him a job as Spectacle’s CEO. That later turned into an offer to become executive vice president instead.

People make the jump from one industry to another all the time. Whetstone’s lack of experience wasn’t necessarily the main concern for the gaming commission.

What triggered alarm bells was Whetstone’s unusual level of compensation. The Spectacle job offer was going to pay Whetstone more than what Ratcliff was earning. That was strange considering that Ratcliff owned most of the company.

The job offer included 1,000 shares of Spectacle, which would have been worth over $650,000 at the time.

All of this came into the spotlight when Whetstone applied for a gaming license in Indiana. The commission had concerns about Whetstone owning a lobbying firm while he would be working for an important gambling company in the state.

Spectacle ended up rescinding the job offer once things got complicated. Because of that, the gaming commission never had to thoroughly investigate Whetsone’s involvement.

Now with Whetstone running for public office again, his Spectacle ties have ended up in the spotlight.

Whetstone is one of four Republicans fighting for House District 25’s open seat. That district includes parts of Boone and Hendricks counties in central Indiana.

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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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