In Wake of Lawmaker’s Guilty Plea, Indiana Gaming Bills Put on Hold

After a former state lawmaker pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge stemming from promises of lucrative employment from a casino company in exchange for passing laws favorable to the state gaming industry, Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray says no gaming bills will be considered during the state’s 2024 legislative session. This decision comes following two political corruption scandals regarding casino matters which have sent shockwaves through the Indiana State Capitol.

Bray explained that the scandal taints the Statehouse and diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the institution, making it difficult to engage in that kind of policy. His statement followed the recent guilty plea of former state Rep. Sean Eberhart, who pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge for agreeing to support gaming legislation beneficial to a casino company in exchange for future employment. Eberhart championed legislation in 2019 that slashed the state’s casino license relocation fee. He also pushed forward a bill to provide tax incentives for casinos. The US Department of Justice said Eberhart did so on behalf of Spectacle Entertainment.

Spectacle. acquired two Indiana casino licenses from Majestic Holdco in 2018, allowing the company to relocate one of its two casino licenses in Buffington Harbor on Lake Michigan to downtown Gary. The controversial deal was facilitated by Eberhart and saw Spectacle paying the state $20 million to relocate the gaming privilege to downtown Gary. In return, Spectacle pledged to hire Eberhart upon his exit from state politics, assuring him an annual salary of at least $350K.

These scandals have caused public distrust in Indiana politics, with a previous incident in August 2022 involving another lawmaker sentenced to prison for taking illegal contributions from a casino company. Following these allegations, Hard Rock International agreed to acquire Spectacle for an undisclosed price, as the state is rocked by the corruption revealed within its political foundations.

This latest scandal has led media outlets like the Daily Journal to criticize the ongoing trend of lawmakers seeking personal gain, suggesting that the public is the real loser in these situations. This suggests a desperate need for an overhaul in the ethics and transparency within the Indiana Statehouse.