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Illinois Gaming Board Questioned As Light Shines On Shady Licensees

Written By J.R. Duren | Updated:
Distrustful Businessman holding Document with Illinois Gaming Board under scrutiny

The people responsible for keeping Illinois gambling clean have mud on their hands.

Revelations about a pair of questionable video gambling licensees raise questions about how the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) could’ve awarded such characters gaming licenses despite the availability of public records about both operators.

 Investigations uncover two licensees saddled with suspect pasts

The IGB’s licensee choices have come into sharp focus in the past five months thanks to a pair of revealing articles by the Chicago Sun-Times.

One Illinois gaming license holder had mob ties

Back in May, the paper published a piece in which it revealed that a video gaming licensee named Jeffery Bertucci had, nine years before getting his license, testified in court that he ran a gambling operation with machines he knowingly acquired from two prominent mob figures.

Now, 13 years later, Bertucci still runs a few video gaming terminals at the same Steak ‘N Egger where he worked with the mob.

Somehow, that key piece of information slipped past the IGB when it approved Bertucci’s license in 2019, according to an IGB Spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaufman who told the Sun-Times.

“​​The allegations you have raised are serious, and the Illinois Gaming Board is looking into them,” Kaufman said, going on to point out that none of the current board members were on the board when the license was approved.

Landlord pleads ignorance about bingo bilking

Earlier this month, the Sun-Times revealed that Rick Heidner, also a video gaming licensee, leased out space to bingo operators who cheated veterans charities out of $2.9 million. Heidner was never charged with a crime in the matter and claimed he didn’t know what was happening.

Despite this history, the IGB awarded Heidner a video gaming license in 2012.

While the oversight of Bertucci’s record is concerning, the oversight of Heidner’s background is downright alarming. Heidner operates more than 4,000 machines and is the third-largest video gaming operator in the state, according to the Sun-Times.

When the paper asked the IGB if they knew about Heidner’s past when they issued him a license, an IGB rep said the matter was confidential and the IGB could not “speculate” if the board knew.

Can Illinois gamblers trust the IGB?

Exactly how these applicants slipped through the cracks is a matter of pure speculation, as the current IGB has not issued a statement or completed an investigation into the matter.

One could enticingly argue that payoffs were made or favors offered to get the licenses. But, at this point, those allegations would be completely unfounded.

Perhaps a more convincing argument is that the IGB conducted incomplete background checks on its applicants. After all, IGB records show that Bertucci’s license was one of 137 that the board approved in January 2019. With so many licenses approved at once, it’s possible the board did not have the resources it needed to properly vet all 137 applicants.

At this point, however, the IGB has not released any information that helps the public understand exactly what went wrong. And, until it does, the IGB’s credibility will suffer.

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Written by
J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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