Illinois Gaming Board Reaches Settlement With VGT Magnate Heidner

The Illinois Gaming Board unanimously approved a settlement with video gaming terminal magnate Rich Heidner on Wednesday that ends the state agency’s bid to revoke his gaming license regarding allegations of an illegal inducement.

Gold Rush Gaming, which Heidner founded, will pay the IGB $75,000 in the settlement — $45,000 to cover the Board’s administrative and investigative costs regarding a disciplinary complaint from November 2019 and a $30,000 fine for “unprofessional conduct.” In a statement, Gold Rush Gaming said the fine was “for disparaging text messages unrelated to the disciplinary complaint that Mr. Heidner sent in July 2019 to an adversary in litigation.”

“After 18 months of denying false accusations from adversaries and fighting to protect my business, my family, and my reputation, I’m grateful that the IGB closely reviewed and considered the facts and evidence demonstrating that I did not offer an illegal inducement as the disciplinary complaint alleged,” Heidner said in a statement released through his company.

As part of the terms of the settlement, Heidner and Gold Rush Gaming have agreed to dismiss two lawsuits against the IGB, including a $4 million suit filed by Heidner in February 2020 in which he claimed an employee of the IGB “intentionally and illegally” disclosed personal and financial information to three federal agencies in January 2020. The lawsuits will be dismissed with prejudice, and each party will bear its own legal costs.

“Through the hearing process and additional investigation of related matters, IGB staff learned information and obtained evidence and materials that added clarity and context to the events underlying the disciplinary complaint and provided context and clarity regarding certain circumstances,” Administrator Marcus Fruchter said in presenting the terms of the settlement to the Board at Wednesday’s meeting prior to the vote.

Also included in the terms of the settlement was Gold Rush Gaming being in good standing as a terminal operator and the IGB renewing its license retroactive to February 2021. In a separate agreement the IGB also approved to rescind an order of economic disassociation between Gold Rush Gaming and its Director of Operations Ronald Bolger.

Complaint history and further background

The 2019 complaint alleged Heidner violated state law and IGB rules in November 2018 by offering to help arrange a purchase of certain video game establishments for a price $5 million above the price a purchaser paid. At the time of the transaction, Gold Rush Gaming had contracts to serve as the terminal operator for 44 of the owned establishments across northern Illinois.

Gold Rush maintains the deal was a “sham” designed to circumvent gaming laws prohibiting inducements and integrated ownership of terminal operators and establishments and noted the IGB continues to investigate the transaction involving the Illinois Cafe and Services Company’s purchase of Laredo Hospitality Ventures.

Prior to the disciplinary complaint, Heidner had been part of a collaborative effort with Hawthorne Race Course manager Tim Carey to open a racetrack and potential racino in the Village of Tinley Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago. In October 2019, Pritzker’s administration opted not to sell state-owned land, a 280-acre tract where the Tinley Park Mental Health Center was, to the village in a step for the proposed $450 million project after Heidner’s name was among 19 individuals in a federal search warrant related to the FBI’s search of the offices of former State Senator Martin Sandoval in September.

The decision by the Pritzker administration was reportedly influenced by a Chicago Tribune investigative report in October 2019 that revealed Heidner had real estate business relationships with Rocco Suspenzi and Dominic Buttitta. Suspenzi was the chairman of the board at Parkway Bank and Trust whose family was connected to mob figures in a failed casino bid in Rosemont in 2003. Buttitta in 2012 pleaded guilty to running an illegal bookmaking operation out of a strip club he owned in South Elgin.

Hawthorne would eventually collaborate with Australian-based sportsbook operator PointsBet to build a racino at its existing location in Stickney in the south suburbs of the city. The track opened a retail sportsbook last September and hopes to open the racino in December.