Illinois Gaming Board Backtracks on Licensing of Mob-Connected Man

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) plans to revoke the gambling license of a man with mob ties after a Chicago Sun-Times (CST) investigation published in May revealed the connection.

When Bonus last covered Jeffrey Bertucci, we asked how a man with mob ties could receive a gambling license. While we suspected politics played a role, the true answer may never be known.

However, the current members of the IGB appear keen to correct the apparent oversight.

The agency stated it was unaware of critical information when it awarded Bertucci’s company, Firebird Enterprises, a state gambling license. Bertucci operates the video gaming terminals (VGTs) at his Steak ‘N Egger location in Cicero, Ill.

But, if the IGB gets its way, Bertucci’s VGTs may be on the way out.

Complaint Calls Out Failure to Disclose Trial Testimony

The IGB first granted Bertucci a license to operate VGTs in 2019.

But, in the aftermath of CST’s reporting, officials have said they were unaware of Bertucci’s testimony in a 2010 mob-related gambling trial.

During the 2010 proceedings, Bertucci (in federal court) admitted he received VGTs for his Cicero location from a company linked to Chicago mobster James  Marcello. He also testified to receiving additional machines from Casey Szaflarski, who authorities have called the mob’s “video poker king.”

Bertucci admitted paying winnings to gamblers and sharing profits with Szaflarski despite that being illegal in Illinois at the time.

Bertucci received immunity for his testimony, which put Szaflarski and two others behind bars.

But, his failure to disclose details of that 2010 testimony when applying for the state license could be his downfall.

According to IGB’s complaint:

Bertucci misrepresented the extent and duration of his involvement with and use of coin-operated amusement devices for illegal gambling purposes.”

Board Rule 310(a)(8) subjects a licensee to discipline for misrepresenting any information to the board.

The complaint argues that by engaging in the conduct described above, Bertucci’s company is subject to discipline.

IGB spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaufman told CST that the board can discipline licensees thanks to gaming statutes and board rules. That power includes license revocation.

Sitting IGB Members Had No Part in 2019 Decision

Notably, the board that approved Bertucci’s license is not the same one in charge today.

Every one of IGB’s sitting members, including gaming board administrator Marcus Fruchter, began their service after Bertucci’s license approval. However, according to CST, one of Fruchter’s aides was in charge at the time.

Regardless of who approved the license, the sitting board must deal with the recent fallout.

The board’s complaint for disciplinary action said that while considering Bertucci’s eligibility in 2018, officials knew about a 2000 arrest for operating a gambling establishment.

The agency said it granted him a gaming license in 2019 based on his apparent honesty in disclosing that.

The board said it only learned of Bertucci’s trial testimony against the mob in May due to the CST story. However, local news outlets reportedly covered Bertucci’s testimony in 2010, so details were presumably available to officials in charge.

When IGB Will Act to Revoke Remains Unclear

State records show that since Bertucci installed the six legal devices at his Cicero Steak ‘N Egger four years ago, the machines have brought in over $4.8 million in total bets.

Bertucci’s Firebird Enterprises split nearly $361,000 with the terminal supplier, and the state received over $100,000 in taxes. In the same timeframe, Cicero earned $18,000 in tax payments.

It is unknown when the board will meet to strip Bertucci’s license.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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