Former Indiana lawmaker accused of pushing casino bill in exchange for a job gets a year in prison

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a former Indiana lawmaker accused of pushing a bill favoring a casino company in exchange for promises of employment to a year and a day in prison.

Former state Rep. Sean Eberhart pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud in November and agreed to pay $60,000 in restitution, roughly equal to his annual pay as a legislator. He faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison but prosecutors recommended leniency as part of the plea deal, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Eberhart’s attorney, Pat Cotter, declined to comment on the sentencing when reached by The Associated Press via email.

Eberhart, a Republican, represented central Indiana’s House District 57 for 16 years before he left office in November 2022.

According to court documents, a company called Spectacle Entertainment was looking to purchase two casinos located on Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana, in 2018. The company wanted to relocate the facilities to downtown Gary and to Vigo County in western Indiana. The Legislature passed a bill approving the move in 2019.

Eberhart sat on the House Committee on Public Policy, which oversees casinos and gambling in Indiana. Prosecutors accused him of using his position to successfully advocate for the relocation and obtain favorable terms for the company, including tax incentives, in exchange for a future job that would pay at least $350,000 annually.

The embattled casino company has been the subject of several federal investigations in recent years.

In 2022, longtime casino executive John Keeler was sentenced, along with former Indiana state Sen. Brent Waltz, for their role in a scheme to illegally funnel gambling money into the lawmaker’s unsuccessful 2016 bid for congress.

Keeler, who was a Republican legislator for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s, was sentenced to two months in federal prison and fined $55,000. The Indiana Gaming Commission forced Spectacle officials to give up their ownership stakes in Gary and Terre Haute casino projects following Keeler and Waltz’s indictments in 2020.

Waltz, a Republican from Greenwood, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for helping route about $40,000 in illegal contributions to his campaign and making false statements to the FBI.

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