A newly formed company headed by two downstate businessmen has an agreement to buy the Majestic Star casinos in Gary, amid talk of redeveloping the casinos' Buffington Harbor home and splitting their two gaming licenses between Gary and another location.
Rod Ratcliff, former chairman and CEO of Centaur Gaming, and Greg Gibson, a Terre Haute businessman, are the principal investors in Spectacle Entertainment, which was formed for the purpose of buying the two Majestic Star casino boats and associated property, including a 300-room hotel.
“Spectacle’s acquisition of the two gaming licenses located in Gary presents a tremendous economic opportunity for the city of Gary as well as the state of Indiana," said Ratcliff, Spectacle's chairman and CEO, in a statement announcing the purchase agreement.
"We welcome the prospect of working with Gary and the (Indiana) General Assembly to maximize the value of these two licenses by allowing Buffington Harbor to become part of an intermodal hub, creating additional employment and increasing state and local tax revenues.”
Centaur Entertainment owned two central Indiana horse-racing and casino properties until being bought by Caesars Entertainment earlier this year.
The transformation of Buffington Harbor into an intermodal cargo hub — something sought by the city and supported in concept by a state legislative study committee — would require moving Majestic Star inland.
Spectacle would hope to use the second license to build a casino in another community.
"Getting the boats out of Buffington Harbor and repositioning the licenses to a better commercial location is in everybody's best interest," Spectacle General Counsel John Keeler said.
He said a new casino would generate additional tax revenue, and argued it could be positioned to draw patrons from neighboring states. That could include Terre Haute, the home of Gibson, Spectacle's vice chairman.
That city "should be on the table," Keeler said, both to add geographic diversity to Indiana's gaming market and to draw Illinois customers.
But he said Spectacle will work with legislators on a location, and acknowledged state government has final say on where — and whether — the licenses will be relocated.
"We're committed to leaving one license in Gary," Keeler said. Beyond that, "we would be open to anything that makes sense."
Hammond and Portage have recently expressed interest in that license, though Horseshoe Casino in Hammond was quick to caution against upsetting the current market.
State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, who brought the Buffington Harbor plan to the legislative study committee last month, expressed support for the deal.
“The timing could not be better for a new casino partner as we look forward to the exciting new opportunities that exist through the recent progress we’ve made with Senate Resolution 24," Melton said, referring to the resolution that authorized the study committee's consideration of the Buffington Harbor plan. "I look forward to working with Spectacle’s leadership and other stakeholders in building a world-class property at an optimal location that allows us to collectively maximize value for all involved including the city, Region and state of Indiana.”
The CEO of Majestic Holdco, the company that currently owns Majestic Star, said the deal is good for the company, its employees and patrons.
“We are delighted with this transaction and believe it is in the best interest of our members, team members and customers," Peter Liguori said. "In addition, we are convinced that Spectacle’s ownership will provide the right vision and support to undertake the company’s next phase of growth.”
The transfer of ownership will require approval by the Indiana Gaming Commission. Spectacle, which has its office in Indianapolis, hopes to be able to close on the transaction in the first quarter of next year.
Spectacle did not reveal financial terms of the agreement Wednesday.