Brent Waltz, Former Indiana Senator, Pleads Guilty To Taking Illegal Gambling-Related Campaign Donations

Written By Derek Helling on April 13, 2022
Brent Waltz Former indiana Senator Admits To taking Illegal Casino Donations

Former Indiana state senator Brent Waltz now faces up to 10 years in prison for his role in the scheme that put casinos in the state under new management. Waltz awaits sentencing on two felony charges related to taking illegal donations toward his US Congress bid from a gaming company.

Waltz’s guilty pleas nearly resolve the federal government’s prosecution of the scandal. Charges remain outstanding against another person of interest whose trial should begin soon.

The backstory of Brent Waltz and Indiana casinos

On Monday, the story of the rise and fall of Spectacle Entertainment involving several Indiana casinos marked one of its final chapters. The tale began nearly a decade ago. In 2016, Waltz gave up his 12-year Indiana Senate seat to run for the US Congress. Waltz failed to win the Republican primary for the seat, though.

It was then that employees of Centaur Gaming illegally funneled money to Waltz’s campaign. Centaur recruited individuals to make contributions to Waltz’s campaign and then reimbursed those people. The indictment against Waltz says the donations in that scheme came to more than $40,000.

Funneling corporate donations to political campaigns through private individuals is a violation of federal elections law.

In January of 2020, the first guilty plea to connected charges came from Charles O’Neill. O’Neill’s guilty plea and the ongoing investigations by not only the FBI but the Indiana Gaming Commission resulted in some tumultuous times for several Indiana casinos.

Several of the people involved in Centaur were also executives at Spectacle. That company operated the two Majestic Star casinos in Gary at the time. The resulting further indictments implicated Waltz and John Keeler, one of those Spectacle executives.

The Commission immediately suspended Keeler’s license, and Spectacle sold its license for the Hard Rock Casino in Terre Haute. At the time, it was also building a new casino with the same branding in Gary as well.

In August of last year, Hard Rock bought out Spectacle Entertainment to take full control of the property in Gary. While that resolved Spectacle’s place in the Indiana gaming industry, the matters of the allegations against Keeler and Waltz remained. That is now halfway concluded.

Waltz’s guilty plea sets stage for Keeler’s trial

Waltz pleaded guilty to both counts against him on Monday. At this time, the date of his sentencing hearing is unknown. According to the Associated Press, his guilty plea did not involve agreements to testify against Keeler or cooperate with the prosecution of Keeler.

Keeler’s trial should begin on Monday after he pleaded not guilty at the same arraignment during which Waltz entered his guilty pleas. Regardless of how that trial ends, it will represent the final chapter of this ordeal.

If Waltz receives the maximum penalty for his crimes, $40,000 for his failed Congressional campaign will absolutely look paltry set against spending 10 years in prison. Gambling a few dollars at a slot machine is superior to gambling away your life in an illegal scheme.

Photo by Michael Conroy / Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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