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Illinois video gambling

A video gambling machine at a bar in Alton, Ill.

(Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com)

JEFFERSON CITY — A video gambling company linked to a brewing federal corruption probe in Illinois has poured more than $113,000 into the campaign coffers of Missouri politicians over the past two years.

Illinois-based Gold Rush Gaming was among a number of businesses and individuals named in a search warrant released Friday following a September raid by federal agents of the offices of Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Democrat from Chicago’s south suburbs.

The subpoena sought information related to Rick Heidner of Barrington Hills and his company, Gold Rush Gaming, which is one of the largest video gambling operators in Illinois, where slot machines have been legal in bars, restaurants, gas stations and truck stops since 2012.

Since 2018, records show Heidner, his family and Gold Rush executives have contributed $30,000 to Gov. Mike Parson and a political action committee raising money in support of his 2020 election campaign.

At least $10,000 has gone to the House Republican Campaign Committee, which raises money to support Republican candidates in the Legislature.

And, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, received $7,800.

Gold Rush, Heidner, his family and other executives in the company also have given money to Democrats in the Legislature, including $2,600 to Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh of Bellefontaine Neighbors and $1,500 to Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette.

The contributions come at a time when Missouri lawmakers are considering plans to expand gambling through Illinois-style legalized slot machines and sports wagering, setting off a scramble among companies seeking to get in on the action.

Some companies have contributed money to Parson and other politicians. Others have hired lobbyists to push legislation through the House and Senate.

John Hancock, who heads the Uniting Missouri PAC, which is raising money on behalf of Parson, said the organization has no issue receiving money from Gold Rush.

“I don’t have any knowledge of them being a bad actor,” Hancock told the Post-Dispatch Friday. “I can say definitively that they’ve never contacted me or asked me for anything.”

Walsh also said she was not aware of the company making any personal appeals to her.

“These are all just allegations at this point,” Walsh said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Heidner told the Chicago Sun-Times Friday he had “zero clue” why his name was on the subpoena.

“Maybe it’s because, you know, I donate money politically and charitably,” Heidner told the newspaper. “But I have no clue why my name would be on it at all.”

The documents released in conjunction with the raid on Sandoval’s office showed that FBI agents were looking for evidence of kickbacks in exchange for official actions.

Among the items seized from Sandoval’s office by federal agents were iPhones, computers, fundraising documents and other files.

On Friday, Sandoval, who has been in office since 2003, resigned as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

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