Gov. J.B. Pritzker halted a proposed racetrack and casino in Tinley Park after it was revealed that a gambling operator pushing for the project has deep real estate ties to a banking executive whose alleged affiliation with the mob helped kill the Emerald casino nearly two decades ago.
Gold Rush Gaming owner Rick Heidner has several active real estate partnerships with Parkway Bank & Trust chairman Rocco Suspenzi through shell companies, according to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune. Heidner and the Suspenzi family have borrowed millions from Parkway Bank to buy commercial properties in several states, the paper found.
Suspenzi, his son Jeffrey, and a reputed mob figure were exposed by the FBI in 2003 for concealing their ownership stake in the Emerald casino project, which had its license revoked. Parkway Bank also made a seven-figure loan to another alleged mobster involved in the casino project, according to the Tribune.
Pritzker informed village officials this week that it would not sell state-owned land to the village for the “racino,” though he didn’t cite the Tribune’s investigation into Heidner’s business relationship with Suspenzi.
On Tuesday, Heidner testified under oath that Illinois Gaming Board investigators had full knowledge of his business ties to a convicted bookie and Suspenzi. He also denied having any affiliation with the mob.
In addition to the “racino,” Heidner has proposed a hotel and entertainment complex at the site of the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
Heidner may have bigger problems to deal with: his name came up during the FBI’s sweep of Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s Capitol office last month, and separately, a search warrant of McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski’s office.
Parkway Bank, meanwhile, has been rumored to be for sale since at least 2017. Parkway is the second-largest privately held bank in the area, with $2.7 billion in assets. But 84 percent of its $2 billion in loans is in commercial real estate, with over 18 percent issued to affiliates of just one company — Inland Real Estate Group. Another aggressive real estate lender, Bank of the Ozarks, was reportedly interested in buying Parkway but didn’t make an offer. Earlier this year, Byline Bank began negotiations to merge with Parkway but it’s unclear where things stand now. [Chicago Tribune] — James Kleimann