Illinois Gaming Board Revokes Video Gaming License

The Illinois Gaming Board recently voted unanimously to revoke the video gambling license of convicted felon John Conforti, owner of Mr. C's Family Restaurant in Chicago. Meanwhile, Governor Bruce Rauner says towns that legalized video gaming will get no funds from the state until a budget is worked out in the legislature.

Following a Chicago Tribune investigation revealing some video gambling machine operators had criminal pasts, the Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously to revoke the license for five video gambling terminals at Mr. C’s Family Restaurant on West State Street. Owner John Conforti had been convicted of a felony for stealing $146,000 from a South Carolina hotel he managed in 1997.

Gaming regulators said they were not aware of Conforti’s conviction since it did not show up on national criminal databases. And Conforti said he didn’t report the crime when he applied for a gaming license in 2013 because he thought his record had been cleared. “I filled out everything properly. They did background checks and fingerprints,” he said.

Conforti’s license will be revoked in 21 days but he can appeal the board’s decision, said Gene O’Shea, director of the Illinois Gaming Board’s self-exclusion program. Gaming board records show Conforti’s machines have grossed around $200,000 since he received a license in December 2013.

The gaming board has issued nearly 7,000 licenses, most of them to about 5,000 establishments with a combined total of 20,000 machines. Fewer than 400 applicants have been denied licenses. Licenses can be denied due to an applicant’s criminal history, past personal or business activities and associations or involvement in illegal gambling.

Conforti also is at risk of losing his Winnebago County liquor license but no determination has been made yet. County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen, who also serves as chairman of the county’s Liquor Commission, said nothing showed up on Conforti except a misdemeanor when the county ran a background check and fingerprints through the state police and FBI.

The Tribune report also said the board granted a gaming license to Vince Dublino, who said at the 2010 trial of mob boss Mike “The Large Guy” Sarno that he installed illegal gambling machines in west suburban taverns and then under-reported the income from the machines on his taxes. Despite that, the board gave Dublino licenses to install video gambling terminals in each of the three bars he owns along a two-block stretch of Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.

In addition, Philip Webb Jr., was arrested with his father, Philip Webb Sr., in a 2001 undercover sting. He was charged with felony syndicated gambling after allegedly installing illegal video poker machines in several bars in McHenry County. Webb Sr.’s attorney said his client eventually pleaded guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges against his son. Webb Jr. continued to operate the vending company he owned with his father. Later the gaming board gave him a license as a terminal handler, and his company was licensed as a terminal operator.

Earlier this month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said towns that host video gambling in bars and restaurants would not get their cuts of taxes associated with gambling losses until lawmakers pass a state budget. Now Controller Leslie Munger’s spokesman Rich Carter said Munger agrees with Rauner’s stance on video gambling and said casinos are in the “same situation.” Therefore cities that host casinos won’t get their latest shares of gambling-loss taxes.

Carter noted as long as the budget impasse continues, the state lacks the authority to send payments from July and later to cities like Elgin, Aurora and Des Plaines. He said the local tax money would go out eventually, once a budget is approved. “It’s just a matter of when,” he said.

But state Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, called the payment delays “hogwash. It has nothing to do with the budget.” The law spells out how much towns should get from casino taxes, he noted.

According to state records, last month the local share of taxes for the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin was $817,858. For Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the June share, which is divided among multiple towns, was $2,046,720. For the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, the amount was $574,136.