Illinois Gaming Board slammed video gambling company for alleged ties to bookmaker, but it’s still reaping millions

In 2021, the state agency proposed stripping the lucrative video gaming license held by Frank Cortese’s company. Nearly two years later, with no ruling yet, he’s still in business.

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Lobbyist and video gaming businessman Frank Cortese.

Lobbyist and video gaming businessman Frank Cortese.

Illinois secretary of state

Video gambling machines operated by a politically well-connected businessman have taken in $75 million in bets since state regulators proposed stripping his license for allegedly associating with the head of an illegal bookmaking operation, records show.

In August 2021, the Illinois Gaming Board filed a complaint against FJC Technologies, LLC, run by lobbyist Frank J. Cortese, saying “the business and/or social relationships maintained by” Cortese with Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice “discredit” and threaten the “integrity” of the industry.

DelGiudice, an Orland Park resident, pleaded guilty in February 2021 to running an illicit sports gambling ring that involved hundreds of gamblers, brought in millions of dollars and had ties to a bookie with reputed mob connections.

Vincent DelGiudice (right) and his attorney Carolyn Gurland leaving the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in March 2020.

Vincent DelGiudice (right) and his attorney Carolyn Gurland leaving the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in March 2020.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

A judge sentenced DelGiudice to prison last year. Records show he was released from federal custody earlier this month.

The gaming board’s complaint remains pending against FJC and Cortese, who meanwhile is in good standing while appealing the agency’s attempts to revoke FJC’s terminal operator license. That’s the lucrative and highly sought-after license that lets him broker deals with bars and restaurants to install video poker machines and similar devices at their establishments.

Since the gaming board complaint was filed, FJC has taken in $75.1 million in bets, according to state records. More than $7 million of that is income FJC gets to split with the establishments that use the company’s machines, the records show.

DelGiudice couldn’t be reached for comment.

Cortese’s attorney Donna More won’t comment on DelGiudice but says, “We’re vigorously challenging the facts as laid out in the complaint.”

Marcus Fruchter, the gaming board’s administrator, says the “law requires” his agency to “adhere to a specific administrative hearing process when it comes to disciplinary actions” and that it “will continue to follow the law while upholding the integrity of gaming operations and maintaining public confidence in Illinois.”

Marcus Fruchter, Illinois Gaming Board administrator.

Marcus Fruchter, the Illinois Gaming Board administrator.

Victor Hilitski/For theSun-Times

It’s unclear when the gaming board might make a final determination on the Cortese license.

Fruchter, who reports to board members appointed by the governor, won’t get into specifics about why the process has taken as long as it has.

“As you know, we cannot release any information on the case at this time,” he says, and the gaming board “does not comment on pending litigation. We will provide an update when the case is resolved.”

The gaming board’s complaint noted that, beyond DelGiudice having admitted in court that he ran his illegal sports gambling ring from 2016 to 2019, he also was convicted in 1996 of other gambling charges.

In 2014, the gaming board “denied video gaming license renewal” to another gaming company “because of the extent of its business and/or social associations with DelGiudice,” the agency says in its complaint against FJC.

The complaint says that, in 2019 DelGiudice “and his associates were present at a licensed video gaming establishment in Bedford Park” when “Cortese and FJC delivered and installed” video gaming machines there.

A portion of the Illinois Gaming Board complaint against Frank Cortese’s video gaming business.

A portion of the Illinois Gaming Board complaint against Frank Cortese’s video gaming business.

Illinois Gaming Board

Cortese operates 12 video gaming machines at Nikki’s and Nikki’s 2, both in Bedford Park — his company’s highest-grossing operations, according to state records.

Cortese’s gaming business is based out of his La Grange home, and he also has machines at pizza places in Mount Prospect, Hodgkins and McHenry, the records show.

He initially operated the gaming business out of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the West Side when the studio was owned by Alexander S. Pissios, who became a government mole after authorities threatened to charge him with bankruptcy fraud.

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.

Sun-Times file

Pissios helped federal authorities snare crooked Chicago Teamsters boss John Coli Sr., who had urged Pissios to hire Cortese, the union’s lobbyist, to also represent Cinespace.

Pissios gambled through DelGiudice and at one time owed him an undisclosed amount of money, the Sun-Times reported in November 2021.

Cortese’s lobbying business, based in the Loop, is called Government Consulting Services of Illinois, LLC. Among its current clients is the village of Bridgeview, whose mayor, Steve Landek, was a political ally of longtime former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Days before filing the complaint against FJC, the gaming board denied an application for a video gaming license sought by Chicago zoning lawyer and banker James J. Banks, citing what it described as his questionable associations. Banks has long had associations with people described as being tied to the mob.

James J. Banks.

James J. Banks.

Sun-Times file

The gaming board has since reversed course, deciding in December to grant Banks’ Gaming Productions, LLC, a terminal operator license without going into detail on the change of heart.

Fruchter says the licensing process “can vary significantly on a case-by-case basis,” with “many different variables.”

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