Plans for a casino in South Chicago axed over mob connections

Plans for a casino in South Chicago axed over mob connections

Chicago can’t seem to catch a break as it tries to get into the casino scene. Five sites chosen as potential candidates to house a gambling house were all rejected by Union Gaming in August, while plans for a racino in Tinley Park in the suburbs to the south of the Windy City were determined to be unsuitable. It isn’t because of some environmental concern or poor revenue projections, either. The rejection comes from reported connections between the racino’s operator with the mob.

Plans for a casino in South Chicago axed over mob connectionsRick Heidner, who owns video-gaming terminal (VGT) company Gold Rush Gaming, applied for a license to put a racino in Tinley Park earlier this year. That license was granted by the Illinois Racing Board (IRB) last month, and the area was ecstatic over the decision, ready to reap the revenue benefits the operations would bring. However, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the IRB nixed those plans Tuesday following a report by the Chicago Tribune that indicates Heidner has ties to Rocco Suspenzi, a reputed mob figure and chairman of the board of Parkway Bank and Trust, as well as to a man who was convicted of tax evasion and running an illegal gambling venue out of a strip club in 2012.

Suspenzi was identified by the Illinois Gaming Board in 2003 of having concealed his ownership in a casino, the Emerald, while serving as the bank’s chairman. Parkway was also allegedly behind a seven-figure loan to another individual with reported ties to the mob in order to finance that person’s stake in the property, and the gaming board canceled Emerald’s license and the project was never completed. Suspenzi was never convicted of any wrongdoing; instead opting to plead his Fifth Amendment rights in a hearing on the subject.

Heidner denies any involvement; however, the results of a recent FBI raid disagree. When the FBI raided Illinois Senator Martin Sandoval’s home and office as part of a corruption investigation, the federal law enforcement agency reportedly uncovered evidence that tied the lawmaker to Heidner. That led reporters with the Chicago Tribune to look deeper into Heidner’s background and they uncovered a possible link between the gambling businessman and the reported mobster.

At a hearing by the IRB this past Tuesday, after the news story had broke, Heidner continued to deny any connection to the mob, stating, “All my business relationships were disclosed to investigators, and the relationships in question were explicitly discussed with multiple [Illinois Gaming Board] agents and investigators. As these business relationships were ongoing, they had been disclosed and further discussed at each annual review of my licenses over the last seven years. I have no affiliation with the Mafia at all.”