FILE - Money

(The Center Square) - Two former members of the Indiana legislature face up to 20 years in prison after federal authorities have accused them of violating election campaign finance laws. 

Brent Waltz and John Keeler were indicted last week. Prosecutors claim consultants for Waltz, a former state senator who ran for a Congressional seat in 2016, worked with a gaming company where Keeler was employed to reimburse people who were recruited to make contributions to Waltz. 

The consultants, who pleaded guilty and were sentenced earlier this year, submitted invoices to Centaur Gaming for bogus work. Federal authorities allege Centaur paid the invoices knowing the work stated on them was not performed. 

Keeler, a former state representative, served as the vice president and general counsel for Centaur, which owned and operated Indiana Grand and Hoosier Park, the state’s two racetracks. Centaur eventually sold those tracks to Caesars Entertainment in 2018.  

Centaur officials, including Keeler, then formed Spectacle Entertainment and bought the Majestic Star Casino in Gary. Spectacle officials lobbied Indiana officials to move the Gary casino off Lake Michigan and to an inland location, and when lawmakers in Indianapolis passed an expanded gaming law last year, Spectacle was given the OK to proceed. 

The Indiana Gaming Commission signed off on the move last December, and a month later Spectacle officials along with representatives from Hard Rock International and the Gary community broke ground on the $300 million project. 

Later in January, though, the IGC announced it was investigating Spectacle after the commission learned representatives who worked for Centaur were part of a federal probe. 

The IGC’s investigation, which is still ongoing, forced a delay in another Spectacle-Hard Rock casino project in the state. Eventually in May, the commission approved a license for a Hard Rock casino in Terre Haute but only after Keeler and Spectacle Chairman and CEO Rod Ratcliff divested from the project. 

Ratcliff, who was also the chairman and CEO of Centaur, was not named in the court documents in Keeler or Waltz’ cases, but the documents did indicate an unnamed Centaur executive was involved in the alleged campaign contribution scheme. 

Ratcliff stepped down from his positions at Spectacle in June. IGC Executive Director Sara Gonso Tait said Ratcliff maintains an ownership stake but has no authority to manage the Majestic Star Casino. 

Hard Rock in a statement said its aware of the news involving Spectacle and remains committed to the Gary casino, which is scheduled to replace the Majestic Star and open next year.