hicago attorney and banker James J. Banks, who has served on the board of the Illinois Tollways system for decades overseeing the state agency, has been rejected his application for a video gambling license in the state. The Illinois Gaming Board said he does not meet the requirements for a lucrative state license.
In a letter written by the gaming board administrator Marcus D. Fruchter earlier this year, it was explained that the board conducted an investigation which included a review of the attorney’s business and social associations, and concluded that they would “adversely affect public confidence and trust in video gaming and would discredit or tend to discredit the Illinois gaming industry”, Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Marcus Fruchter, Illinois Gaming Board Administrator.
The gaming board then decided that granting Banks’ company the “terminal operator license” that he had applied for would “not serve the interests of the citizens of Illinois”. The letter does not give any details of the gaming board’s findings, or which associations they found troubling. The 58-year-old attorney is appealing the decision, and is expected to be considered at a closed-door hearing.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, a spokeswoman for Banks’ company said: “Since this matter is ongoing, our comments are limited and our attention is focused on the IGB administrative process. Mr. Banks is pleased that the IGB granted Gaming Productions’ request for a hearing and looks forward to further establishing that it is suitable and deserving of a license consistent with the IGB’s standards”.
“Mr. Banks is proud of his career to date as well as his personal and professional relationships, and strongly disputes that any of them disqualify him from holding a license”, she concluded.
Illinois law says an “applicant has the burden to demonstrate its qualifications and suitability for licensure to the satisfaction” of the gaming board, Fruchter explained in the letter. He also cited a law that bars anyone from getting a gaming license if they have “a background, including a criminal record, reputation, habits, social or business associations or prior activities that pose a threat to the public interests of the state or to the security and integrity of video gaming.”
Fruchter also noted that state law says the board may not grant any video gaming license until the board is satisfied that the applicant is someone who “does not present questionable business practices and financial arrangements incidental to the conduct of video gaming activities” and who does not associate with “persons of notorious or unsavory reputation or what have extensive police records.”
In 2006, Banks founded Belmont Bank & Trust on the Northwest Side. The bank’s board of directors’ early members included his father Samuel V.P. Banks, a criminal defense lawyer who represented reputed mob figures.
Other members of the bank board have included Fred B. Barbara, longtime friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and former state Senator James A. DeLeo.
Four Belmont Bank board members’ names came up during the landmark 2007 Operation Family Secrets trial of Chicago Outfit bosses and others, though none of the four was charged.
A convicted burglar testified that he bribed police officers by passing money through Samuel Banks, who was not charged with any crime. A mobster’s widow also said that James Bank and DeLeo cheated her when she sold them a restaurant. And Nick Calabrese — a prolific mob hit man who, at the Family Secrets trial, became the first “made” member ever to testify against the Chicago Outfit — testified that Barbara participated in the bombing of an Elmwood Park restaurant in the early 1980s, though he was never charged.
Former Illinois State Senator James A. DeLeo.
DeLeo was indicted in 1989 by a federal grand jury in the Operation Greylord investigation that charged him with failing to pay taxes on bribes he said he took while a top aide to Cook County’s chief traffic court judge. The jury could not reach a verdict, and DeLeo ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal that let him hold onto his legislative seat.
Banks was first appointed to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority in 1993 by then-Governor Jim Edgar. Governors George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, Quinn and Bruce Rauner all kept him on the board.
Since then, he has become one of Chicago’s most influential zoning lawyers. Banks and his wife Grace Sergio own a real estate company, Sergio & Banks. He also runs the Loop law firm that formerly was his late father’s firm. A fellow attorney at the firm is listed as the incorporating agent for Banks’ gaming company.
According to paperwork filed with the gaming board, Banks’ gaming company would “own various gaming terminals” and it would “place such terminals for use in those establishments which are permitted by the Illinois Video Gaming Act.” Such devices are legal for gambling in restaurants, bars and other establishments in many suburbs but not in the city of Chicago.