Man With Mob Ties Awarded Gambling License From Illinois Gaming Board

Written By C.J. Pierre on May 17, 2023
Organized Crime

The Illinois Gaming Board may face difficulties due to a recent revelation. They issued a gambling license to a man who in the past confessed to connections with the Chicago mob.

Numerous inquiries are currently being raised about Jeffrey Bertucci, a restaurant owner. The IGB awarded him a license in 2019, allowing him to operate video gaming terminals legally at his suburban establishment. Nevertheless, he has also admitted to having ties with individuals associated with the mob.

Numerous complex aspects are involved. Now, the task of unraveling the situation falls on the existing board members.

Bertucci granted immunity for testifying against mob’s “video poker king”

The responsibility of the gaming board includes safeguarding the legitimacy of legal gambling in Illinois. This is achieved in part by filtering out unsuitable license-holders and applicants, particularly those with connections to organized crime.

In 2010, Bertucci, who resides in Lemont, confessed in a federal court that he acquired VGTs for his diner in Cicero from an amusement company. This company was associated with James Marcello, a notorious figure in the Chicago mob.

Bertucci also gave evidence that he obtained additional gambling machines from another operator, Casey Szaflarski, who was depicted by federal authorities as the mob’s “video poker king.” He confessed that he paid out winnings to players using those machines, which was illegal in Illinois at the time. Bertucci also admitted to sharing profits with Szaflarski.

Testimony also led to conviction of “The Large Guy” and pawnshop Polchan

Investigators provided Bertucci with immunity in return for his testimony against Szaflarski. This led to the conviction of the mob’s street boss in Cicero, Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno. Additionally, Mark Polchan, who owns a pawnshop and holds a high-ranking position within the infamous Outlaws Motorcycle Club, was found guilty.

Despite publicly admitting to his mob connections and unlawful actions, Bertucci was still issued a license by the IGB in 2019 to operate VGTs at his restaurant legally.

How did this happen?

Bertucci continues to operate the same Cicero diner, equipped with video gaming devices that pay out winnings. According to state records, since 2019, Bertucci’s Firebird Enterprises, Inc. has been legally licensed by the gaming board to run VGTs at the diner.

Elizabeth Kaufman, a spokeswoman for the Gaming Board, informed the Chicago Sun-Times that Bertucci had applied for a video gaming license in June 2018 and was granted one in January 2019. Agostino Lorenzini was the acting administrator of the agency during that period. Lorenzini, who currently serves as a senior advisor for the agency, told the Sun-Times that he does not remember Bertucci’s company or the decision made by the gaming board members to license it.

From 2019 onwards, the restaurant’s six gambling devices have accrued over $4.3 million in wagers. The restaurant and the gaming company supplying the machines have shared roughly $317,000 of this amount. In this period, the state has collected more than $90,000 in taxes from this operation, while the town of Cicero has garnered close to $16,000.

What the IGB is telling Play Illinois

Play Illinois contacted Kaufman for an update on the situation, to which she responded with a short statement.

Kaufman stated, “At this time, we have no additional information. The IGB refrains from making comments on investigations whether they are pending, potential, or actual, or on matters deemed confidential under section 6(d) of the Illinois Gambling Act.”

Bertucci’s gaming license was approved by the IGB before the tenure of Marcus Fruchter, the present gaming board administrator, or any other existing board member. However, they now bear the responsibility of figuring out why Bertucci was granted a license despite his dubious past.

Kaufman informed the Sun-Times that the board possesses the power, as per various gaming laws and board regulations, to penalize license holders, including the revocation of licenses.

VGTS are the leading gambling sector in Illinois

Casinos have been a part of Illinois for decades, yet it wasn’t until 2009 that video gaming was legalized. Commencing in 2012, video gambling has only grown in popularity.

In Illinois, VGTs are the dominant sector in gambling.

In 2022, Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) in Illinois generated a total income exceeding $2.7 billion. This amount is twice as much as the revenue from Illinois casinos and three and a half times more than the income from Illinois sportsbooks.

In 2022, casinos in Illinois generated adjusted gross receipts of approximately $1.35 billion. Last year, sportsbooks in Illinois reported revenue of $806 million.

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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre, a Lead Writer at Play Illinois, boasts over a decade of experience in covering news and sports for both online mediums and TV broadcasts. Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN, he is a proud alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. Pierre recently expanded his reporting to include tribal casino and online gambling news, and was instrumental in covering the launch of sports betting in Arizona. With considerable experience as a reporter and videographer, he has covered a wide range of sports at the high school, college, and professional levels. His notable coverage includes the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings, and the North Dakota State University football team.

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