Former Indiana Casino Executive Admits To Funneling Money To GOP

Former casino executive John Keeler admitted to illegally funneling cash to the Marion County Republican Party on Monday. He took a plea deal one hour before the start of his trial in federal court.

Keeler pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return as part of a scheme to funnel casino cash. He could face up to three years in prison for that charge, but his deal absolves him of any wrongdoing in the Brent Waltz case.

Keeler takes plea deal

Keeler might be off the hook for some of his charges, but he’s still facing punishment for committing tax fraud.

As part of his deal, he admitted to using an out-of-state consultant to indirectly funnel $25,000 to the Marion County GOP.

At the time, Keeler was the vice president of Centaur Gaming. The company owned Harrah’s Hoosier Park and Horseshoe Indianapolis casinos before it sold them off to Caesars Entertainment in 2018.

In order to keep things quiet money, Keeler ran the money through a political consultant in Maryland, who then charged Centaur with fake invoices for the cash. The consultant then sent the majority of the money to the Republican Finance Committee in Indianapolis.

Centaur tried to write off the payments as business expenses, which set off some alarms. That led to a multi-year investigation from federal officials and the Indiana Gaming Commission. Keeler was eventually indicted on federal charges back in September 2020.

Keeler will be paying $14,350 as part of his plea deal. That number will cover the tax losses from the scheme.

That’s in addition to the up to three years in prison he could be facing, although he’ll likely receive a more lenient sentence thanks to his deal.

Waltz charges dropped

Prosecutors dropped five other charges against Keeler as part of his plea agreement. That will put him in the clear from the Brent Waltz situation.

Keeler was allegedly partners with Waltz in a similar money-funneling scheme that caused the Spectacle Entertainment casino scandal.

In a nutshell, prosecutors say that Keeler illegally funneled over $40,000 from Centaur to Waltz’s unsuccessful political campaign back in 2015.

Waltz accepted a plea agreement last week, admitting to his role in the scheme.

Rod Ratcliff, Keeler’s former boss at Centaur, was referred to as a “co-conspirator” during a pre-trial hearing last week.

The Indiana Gaming Commission permanently banned Ratcliff from the state’s casino industry last year.

Despite that, Ratcliff noticeably hasn’t been charged with any crimes yet. That might change in the future, but at least for now, Ratcliff isn’t joining Waltz and Keeler on the chopping block.

Photo by Dreamstime
Jake Garza Avatar
Written by
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 Play Indiana 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.

View all posts by Jake Garza