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Local

Illinois Gaming Board moves to yank video gambling license after accusing owner of offering a $5 million ‘illegal inducement’ to betting parlor chain

The Illinois Gaming Board has moved to strip video gambling operator Rick Heidner of his license after accusing him of offering a $5 million “illegal inducement” to the owner of a chain of gambling parlors, records show.

State officials filed the action Tuesday, saying they had learned that Heidner, who operates Gold Rush Amusements, with multiple sites in the Sauk Valley, offered the money after the owners of Laredo Hospitality told him they were moving to pull his video gambling machines from 44 of their gambling parlors, according to the complaint for disciplinary action filed with the board by its staff. The Tribune obtained the complaint through an open records request.

During a Nov. 16, 2018, meeting at a Rosemont steakhouse between Heidner and the CEO of Laredo, the executive told Heidner that after a recent ownership change, Laredo would be severing its relationship with Gold Rush, according to the complaint.

Two weeks later, Heidner met with Laredo’s new owner, Daniel Fischer, and offered to buy Laredo for $5 million more than Fischer had just paid for the company, according to the complaint. Fischer declined the offer, according to the complaint.

Heidner then sent a series of text messages to Laredo’s former CEO, Gary Leff, detailing the offer, the Gaming Board says.

“First thing I asked was if he would sell and I could get a group together quickly and would get him $5,000,000.00 more than he paid please make $5, in a week,” Heidner texted to Leff, according to the complaint. “I told him none of my friends wanted to see this happen to me. He obviously said no...I told him I would help him so much I would help him expand so much.”

Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter proposed stripping Heidner of his video gaming license.

“The terminal operator license of Gold Rush Amusements, Inc. … shall be revoked for violations of the Video Gaming Act,” Fruchter wrote in the complaint. Gold Rush has 21 days to respond to the action.

Gaming officials filed two counts against Gold Rush. The first alleges that Heidner violated the Video Gaming Act prohibition against “giving anything of value to an establishment as an incentive or inducement to locate (video gaming terminals) in that establishment.”

The second count cites a nearly identical prohibition that “requires that licensed terminal operators ‘offer or provide nothing of value to any licensed video gaming location or any agent or representative of any licensed video gaming location as an incentive or inducement to locate, keep or maintain video gaming terminals at the licensed video gaming location.”

After each count in the complaint, Gaming officials wrote Gold Rush’s “terminal operator license should be REVOKED.”

It’s the latest bad news from the state for Heidner, who 2 months ago saw Gov. J.B. Pritzker pull the plug on Heidner’s proposed horse racing track and casino on state-owned land in Tinley Park.

The Pritzker administration’s decision came days after a Tribune investigation detailed Heidner’s long-standing business relationships with a banking family whose financial involvement with mob figures helped sink a Rosemont casino, as well as a convicted bookie. Heidner’s name also had surfaced in an FBI search warrant for the Springfield office of Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago.

Gaming Board officials and Heidner’s attorney and spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the state’s largest video gaming operators, Heidner’s company has machines in more than 450 locations across the state.

Sauk Valley locations

Gold Rush Amusements, owned by video gambling operator Rick Heidner, has a presence in the Sauk Valley.

Gold Rush machines are at sites in Amboy, Ashton, Dixon, Erie, Fulton, Grand Detour, Lyndon, Milledgeville, Morrison, Nelson, Oregon, Paw Paw, Polo, Rock Falls, Sterling, Sublette, and Tampico.

Go to goldrushgaming.com/locations for a full list of locations.

dheinzmann@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @davidheinzmann

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2019 the Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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