Illinois’ biggest and most popular casino has been hit with a $2 million fine, and two of its officers have been ordered suspended, after a complaint from the Illinois Gaming Board lambasted the casino’s parent company for failure to follow internal procedures in hiring a security and maintenance vendor, and for lax control over gaming promotions.
The stiff penalty against Rivers Casino in Des Plaines comes three months after the Better Government Association and NBC5 Investigates began raising questions about Rivers’ relationship with the cleaning giant United Maintenance and its parent company United Service Companies, and past associations of the company’s president, Richard Simon.
The possible issue, raised by the Better Government Association to Rivers’ management, concerned the fact that Simon previously organized another cleaning company, National Facilities Maintenance, with William Daddano Jr. In 2004, Daddano was named, along with other members of his family, as a reputed member of organized crime by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
After the questions arose in May, Rivers immediately terminated their relationship with United, and reported themselves to the Illinois Gaming Board.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we terminated our relationship with United, and since then we have been fully cooperating with the Illinois Gaming board in their investigation,” said David Patent, the casino company’s president. “We self-reported to the Illinois Gaming Board that there might be an issue.”
At the time, Patent said he was cognizant of the fact that the Gaming Board took “reputation” into account when determining who casinos should be employing as contractors. Illinois gaming laws are very specific that casinos and their operators are not supposed to do business with anyone who has even a hint of an association with organized crime. But Simon’s company had a security contract with Rivers Casino while it was being built, and took over “deep cleaning” services at the casino after it opened four years ago.
“It’s not just about who we are and what we do, but it is the people that we associate with and the people that they associate with,” he said. “Not only the people that we employ within the casino, but the contractors, vendors, anybody who provides goods or services, be free not only of taint themselves, but of taint in people they have associated with.”
But the Gaming Board came down hard on Rivers, not only for the United contract, but also for numerous infractions regarding promotions.
Describing their findings on United, Gaming Board investigators said they found that Rivers had hired the company for security and cleaning services, without going through proper bidding and other procedures. In one case, they found that a contract had been back dated, and that a due-diligence report was actually performed more than a year after the company had already been hired.
The Gaming Board complaint never mentions the questions about Simon’s past associations, and in fact makes no suggestion that United should not have been hired. But over four pages, the Board’s investigators outline five gaming promotions which they say were either improperly done, or allowed to be staged without state approval.
In one case, six patrons were allowed to participate in a $250,000 “sign up and win” promotion which had already been closed to the public. In another, June 1 of this year, called the “Jackpot Party Giveaway”, 264 patrons were given entries even though the Gaming Board’s administrator had never given his approval for the game.
“Patrons had not been advised as to the status of their entries earned as a result of their gaming, even though the casino knew the “Jackpot Party Giveaway” promotional drawing was not approved,” the complaint said.
At the time, Gaming Board officials met with officers at Rivers Casino, warning them that further infractions could lead to discipline. But the complaint says still another game later that month, “Jackpot Rush Giveaway”, was marred by improper play, with one patron winning a prize he did not qualify for, two others losing prizes for which they were qualified, and still another who won a prize after the promotion had expired.
On July 31, the complaint says a “data entry error” by a database administrator caused 38 patrons to be awarded prizes they were not eligible to receive.
As a result of the procedural and contract issues surrounding United Service, and the questions regarding promotional campaigns, the Gaming Board slapped Rivers with a $2 million fine, and ordered the suspension of two officers: General Manager Michael St. Pierre was ordered suspended for 60 days without pay, and Vice President of Marketing Daniel Brockdorf was ordered suspended for 30 days, also without pay. The casino and its two employees have 21 days to file a formal answer to the complaint.
In a statement, United said they were “never privy to Rivers’ proprietary internal controls.”
“United, its President and CEO Richard Simon, as well as certain of United’s employees, voluntarily and fully cooperated with the Gaming Board’s investigation,” the statement said. “We are grateful to the Gaming Board for its professional, thorough, and fair investigation. Contrary to certain published allegations, United, its management team, and its employees enjoy an outstanding reputation for integrity, professionalism, and high quality services.”
A spokesman for Rivers Casino emphasized that they, likewise, had cooperated fully in the Gaming Board probe.
“As this is an ongoing administrative matter, we are limited in our ability to comment,” the company’s parent Rush Street Gaming said in a statement. “Rivers has a deep commitment to compliance, and we strive to continuously improve our culture of compliance. We are reviewing IGB’s concerns carefully, and will continue to fully cooperate with the Gaming Board to resolve this administrative matter.”
In their complaint, the Gaming Board noted that before Rivers Casino even opened, its Vice President of Human Resources, Merrick Dresnin was the one who had suggested hiring United to provide security services during the casino’s construction.
Dresnin is now the vice president of human resources for United Service.