Illinois Gaming Board Mulls Revoking License for Business With Mob Links

Posted on: August 28, 2023, 08:58h. 

Last updated on: August 28, 2023, 12:34h.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) continues to review how a restaurant owner with admitted ties to the mob secured a state-issued gaming license. The pact allows him to incorporate video gaming terminals (VGTs) at his restaurant in Cicero.

Illinois gaming VGT Jeffrey Bertucci Steak N Egger
Video gaming terminals at the Steak N Egger location in Cicero might soon disappear. The Illinois Gaming Board is considering revoking the restaurant’s gaming license after reports surfaced that the diner’s owner, Jeffrey Bertucci, previously operated illegal gambling machines. (Image: Chicago Sun-Times)

Jeffrey Bertucci applied for a VGT license in June 2018. The IGB conducted a suitability probe and, in January 2019, determined he was eligible for the permit. The state gaming regulatory subsequently issued Bertucci a VGT license that allows him to house up to six VGT machines inside his Steak N Egger restaurant.

More than four years later, reports on Bertucci’s past, including his concessions that he had business ties to the Chicago mob, have reemerged. That led to the IGB questioning how he was deemed suitable to operate a gaming location in the first place.

Video gaming terminals, which are slot-like machines that allow players to gamble inside small businesses throughout the state, became legal in Illinois in 2009. Operations, however, didn’t commence until 2012, as the IGB took roughly three years to settle on VGT regulations and issue licenses to small businesses wishing to incorporate the revenue-generating apparatuses.

Bertucci, however, admitted to offering his diners gaming machines many years before the state authorized VGTs.

VGT Legality

Bertucci testified in federal court against mob kingpins James Marcello and Casey Szaflarski. The latter was deemed the Chicago mob’s “video poker king” by law enforcement. In that testimony, Bertucci admitted to housing unregulated video gaming terminals and splitting the profits with the mob.

The IGB filed a “Complaint for Disciplinary Action” on July 25 against Bertucci “for misrepresenting and falsely stating material information” to the board during his licensing process.

Marcus Fruchter, administrator of the IGB, wrote in the complaint that he recommends that Bertucci’s VGT license be revoked. Fruchter alleged Bertucci “misrepresented the extent and duration of his involvement with and use of coin-operated amusement devices for illegal gambling purposes.”

The IGB says it doesn’t comment publicly on license reviews. It’s also unclear as to when the IGB might vote on revoking Bertucci’s license.

Video gaming is a big business for small businesses. According to revenue reports from the IGB, Bertucci’s Steak N Egger restaurant has taken in more than $4.3 million in bets since his six machines were turned on in 2019. The machines won $317K of the wagers.

Applicant Criteria

Bertucci is a Steak N Egger franchise with two locations, one in Cicero and another in Chicago at 1174 W. Cermak Rd. Bertucci’s Chicago location doesn’t have video gaming terminals, though he said it did when he was operating unlicensed machines.

Each business owner wishing to incorporate legal VGTs in a municipality that permits them must undergo a suitability probe with the IGB.

“The burden is upon each applicant to demonstrate his suitability for licensure,” the Illinois Video Gaming Act mandates. Persons who “have a background, including a criminal record, reputation, habits, social or business associations, or prior activities that pose a threat to the public interests of the State or the security and integrity of video gaming” are not suitable for licensure.