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Video gambling operator Rick Heidner sues state Gaming Board over alleged data breach

Chicago Tribune

Friday, February 14, 2020  |  Article  |  Dan Hinkel

Gambling, Gaming

Embattled video gambling operator Rick Heidner is suing the Illinois Gaming Board, alleging an agency employee leaked sensitive information to the federal government.


The lawsuit filed Tuesday contends that an unnamed Gaming Board employee passed information about Heidner and his family to three unidentified “federal government entities." The suit accuses the board of negligence and says it violated state law by failing to prevent the disclosure or promptly notify Heidner.


The lawsuit says the Gaming Board’s handling of records was “careless and cavalier, at best.”


The litigation comes as the Gaming Board seeks to revoke Heidner’s license to operate video gambling machines, an action the agency took after accusing him of offering a $5 million “illegal inducement” to the owner of a chain of gambling parlors. Months earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration scuttled a land sale he needed to go forward with a horse track and casino project.


Those moves followed an October Tribune report that Heidner, owner of Gold Rush Amusements, had longstanding business ties with Rocco Suspenzi, chairman of Parkway Bank and Trust. In 2003, the FBI and the Illinois Gaming Board exposed Suspenzi and his son Jeffrey for concealing their own ownership stake, as well as that of a reputed mob figure, in the infamous Emerald casino project, which regulators killed after finding the purported involvement of organized crime.


The Tribune also found that Heidner had a similar business relationship with Dominic Buttitta, a businessman convicted of running an illegal sports-betting operation out of a strip club he controlled.

Heidner’s suit alleges that the Gaming Board took an “adversarial position” against him as the Tribune reported on his business dealings and accuses the board of “fueling the negative media portrayal” of Heidner.


A Gaming Board spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday, a state holiday.


The suit alleges the board waited weeks before notifying Heidner in late January that he’d been a victim of the breach. The notice said the leaked information included Heidner’s and his family’s social security numbers and driver’s license numbers, according to the lawsuit filed in the Illinois Court of Claims, a venue for suits against the state.


The lawsuit states that Heidner’s lawyer sought more detail on the leaked records but was rebuffed. Heidner has provided the Gaming Board with information about his personal background, real estate holdings, life insurance policies and vehicles, among other things, the lawsuit states.


A January letter from Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter to Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady said gaming officials believed the leak was an “isolated incident involving one employee who acted alone and outside of the employee’s duties.” The employee was put on leave pending an internal investigation, according to the letter.