Casino developer sues Illinois gaming board over data breach

A video gambling operator who was denied approval to open a casino-racetrack near Chicago is suing the Illinois Gaming Board, alleging that one of its employees illegally accessed sensitive information about him and his company and leaked it to three federal agencies.

Rick Heidner, the third-largest video gambling operator in Illinois, alleges that the gaming board notified him on Jan. 31 that one of its employees had improperly accessed his sensitive financial records, personal information and other sensitive content, including information about his wife and children.

In his lawsuit, Heidner claims that the data breach was intentional and illegal, and that the board hurt his reputation with “unfair and improper actions,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

“Despite requiring licensees and associated individuals to hand over a veritable treasure trove of their most sensitive data, the evidence will show that the IGB’s approach to protecting Mr. Heidner’s data has been careless and cavalier, at best,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in the Illinois Court of Claims.

The gaming board last month cited privacy laws when it notified state lawmakers that “an IGB employee may have improperly accessed confidential information on IGB licensees and applicants and disclosed this information without authorization or justification to three federal government entities."

Heidner, who owns the Gold Rush Gaming company, argues that the board also contributed to the failure of a race track and casino deal in Tinley Park. Gov. J.B. Pritzker pulled the plug on that project after Heidner’s name appeared on federal search warrants related to him and his gambling company last summer.

The gaming board doesn’t comment on pending litigation, an agency spokesman explained when declining to comment on the breach.

The board in December moved to revoke Heidner's gambling license for allegedly offering $5 million in an “illegal inducement” to the owner of a gambling parlor chain that planned to remove his machines. It’s a felony to give “anything of value to an establishment as an incentive or inducement to locate (video gambling terminals) in that establishment,” according to state law.

Meanwhile, Heidner contends that the gaming board was aware of all his business connections, and the unnamed employee “made these unauthorized disclosures to fuel ― or at least in response to ― negative media coverage the IGB helped generate against Mr. Heidner and Gold Rush.”

The lawsuit seeks damages of $4 million negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.