Gold Rush Gaming Will Pay $75,000 to Settle Illinois Gaming Board Dispute

  • Gold Rush will pay a $30,000 fine and an additional $45,000 to cover other fees
  • The dispute goes back to November 2018 and an offer made by owner Rick Heidner
  • The IGB claimed he broke video gaming law by offering money to locate his machines
  • Gold Rush has praised the settlemen,t but criticized a transaction between its competitors 
  • Heidner was cleared in a federal investigation last year regarding political bribery 
Dollars and settlement on paper
Gold Rush Gaming will pay $75,000 to settle a Illinois Gaming Board case involving its owner Rick Heidner and an offer to purchase gaming facilities in 2018. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

An end to the case

Video gambling operator Gold Rush Gaming has agreed to pay a total of $75,000 to settle a dispute with the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).

The Hoffman Estates-based company has been at the center of an IGB investigation since 2019. The board accused its owner, Rick Heidner, of offering a $5m “illegal inducement” to a video gaming venue company in order to keep Gold Rush machines in the establishments.

an additional $30,000 fine for disparaging text messages Heidner sent to a professional rival in 2019

Gold Rush confirmed the settlement in a statement released on Wednesday. The company will pay $45,000 to cover administrative and investigative costs associated with the complaint. It received an additional $30,000 fine for disparaging text messages Heidner sent to a professional rival in 2019.

Upon payment of the $75,000, the board has agreed to end its investigation and dismiss the complaint. The operator has also agreed to dismiss two lawsuits filed against the board related to the release of personal and financial details and the denial of document requests.

Details of the investigation

According to Gold Rush’s Wednesday statement, the complaint centered around events which occurred in November 2018. At the time, the video gambling operator had contracts to supply its machines to 44 establishments owned by Laredo Hospitality Ventures.

ICSC decided to sever ties with Heidner and replace its Gold Rush machines

Heidner faced the loss of those contracts after Dan Fischer, the owner of Illinois Cafe and Service Company, LLC (ICSC), agreed to purchase Laredo. After taking control of the venues, ICSC decided to sever ties with Heidner and replace his Gold Rush machines.

The complaint alleged that Heidner then violated state law and IGB rules by offering to help purchase the venues for $5m more than ICSC paid for them. Fischer rejected the offer and affirmed the company’s commitment to pulling Gold Rush’s machines, prompting Heidner to send a series of highly-emotive text messages to former Laredo owner Gary Leff.

Although emotionally charged, these text messages were not the cause of Gold Rush’s additional $30,000 fine. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Heidner sent the messages described in the settlement as “disparaging” to an opponent in litigation. Heidner has since acknowledged the unprofessional nature of the messages.

The IGB subsequently filed two counts against the operator. It alleged that Heidner had violated the Video Gaming Act by providing a financial incentive to locate in an establishment. The regulator proposed stripping Heidner of his operating license in December 2019.

Gold Rush reaction

Patrick M. Collins, attorney for Gold Rush and Heidner, released a statement in response to the settlement. He said it “vindicates Gold Rush and Mr. Heidner on the allegations that were charged in the disciplinary complaints.” The lawyer pointed to “misleading media reports” as a main reason for the complaint, while praising the “fair and reasonable settlement.”

The operator has also said it will continue to contend the transaction between ICSC and Laredo, currently under investigation by the Gaming Board. Gold Rush described the acquisition as a “sham,” noting the opinion of a Cook County Circuit Court judge in December 2019, who supposedly viewed it as “highly suspect.”

According to Gold Rush, pending litigation has revealed that video gaming operator Midwest SRO paid more than $44.5m to Laredo’s owners before receiving its contract to replace Gold Rush in the venues.

Heidner cleared by Feds

The potential loss of his gambling license looked to be the least of Heidner’s worries in 2020, when he suddenly found himself embroiled in a federal investigation.

hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes

Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to corruption charges that year after accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to favor a company’s interests in the legislature. After federal officers raided Sandoval’s office the previous year, Heidner’s name appeared in warrants related to the investigation.

US Attorney John Lausch ulimately cleared Heidner of any wrondoing in a June 2020 letter. Lausch made clear, however, that Heidner could become a target of the investigation in the future if any further information presented itself.