Illinois VGT Operator Rick Heidner Sues Gaming Regulator Over Illegal Data Leak to Feds

Posted on: February 12, 2020, 12:44h. 

Last updated on: February 12, 2020, 02:13h.

An Illinois video-gaming terminal (VGT) operator whose bid to build a racino in Tinley Park, South Chicago, was sunk by bad press and a dubious business connection is suing the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) for $4 million.

Rick Heidner
Rick Heidner believes the illegal data leak contributed to the bad press that wrecked the Tinley Park racino proposal. (Image: Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Rick Heidner of Gold Rush Amusements claims an IGB employee leaked “a veritable treasure trove” of personal and financial information about him to several unnamed federal agencies.

The employee “made these unauthorized disclosures to fuel ― or at least in response to ― negative media coverage the IGB helped generate against Mr. Heidner and Gold Rush,” claims the lawsuit.

On September 24, 2019, Heidner was being hailed as the saviour of Illinois horse racing by the Illinois Racing Board when it approved his license to operate racing at Tinley Park.

Crooked Senator Raided

But Heidner’s misery began on the very same day when the FBI raided the home and offices of State Senator Martin Sandoval as part of a corruption investigation. The raid kick-started a chain of events that ultimately led to the demise of the Tinley Park proposal.

When the FBI’s seizure warrant was published several weeks later, it revealed that the raid was targeting information relating to any business dealings between Sandoval and Heidner, among many other companies and individuals.

Heidner said at the time he had no clue why his name appeared on the warrant, and Sandoval later pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a traffic enforcement camera company in a case that had nothing to do with Heidner.

But the damage was done. The incident prompted The Tribune to do some digging. It uncovered business dealings between Heidner and Rocco Suspenzi, chairman of the board at Parkway Bank and Trust.

In 2003, the IGB found Suspenzi had concealed his interest in the now-defunct Emerald casino project, along with those of his alleged Mob associates.

In response to the Tribune article, Heidner said he had declared his past dealings with Suspenzi to the IGB and had still been granted a gaming license to operate VGTs.

Governor Freaks Out

But the Suspenzi connection was enough to spook the governor’s office. Days after the Tribune article appeared, the administration canceled the deal to sell the state-owned plot of land earmarked for the Tinley Park development.

Heidner’s lawsuit states the IGB informed him about the data leak on January 12. The employee responsible has been placed on administrative league, according to the regulator.

“Despite requiring licensees and associated individuals to hand over a veritable treasure trove of their most sensitive data, the evidence will show that the IGB’s approach to protecting Mr. Heidner’s data has been careless and cavalier, at best,” the lawsuit states.

Separately, the IGB has launched action to revoke Heidner’s gaming license, claiming he offered a $5 million “illegal inducement” to the owner of a chain of gaming parlors that had threatened to dump his machines for another supplier.

Heidner’s lawyer told the Tribune in December his client was the victim of an “orchestrated smear campaign” by a competitor.