A West Chicago woman has sued the Illinois Gaming Board, claiming the board improperly turned down her applications last spring for four video gaming licenses for planned establishments in suburban Chicago, in retaliation for a lawsuit her husband had brought against the Board over sweepstakes machines.
On Aug. 26, Renee M. Fanjon filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court for administrative review, asking a judge to order the Gaming Board to issue licenses to her to operate video gaming terminals at Island Cafe restaurants she hoped to run in Calumet Park, Elk Grove Village, Harvey and McHenry.
Fanjon formed Mexican Woman Gaming LLC in April 2014 for the purpose of operating the video gaming establishments. She submitted license applications in October 2014 to the Illinois Gaming Board, but the Board rejected her requests May 28, explaining the reason was Fanjon’s marriage to Kevin Sypolt.
Sypolt was an owner of Windy City Promotions when his company placed what Fanjon's attorney called “electronic product promotion kiosks” in a health club in Morris in Grundy County, about 70 miles southwest of Chicago. To use a kiosk, a customer can buy a coupon for $1, which can be used to make discounted purchases on certain items. Purchase of the coupon also allows the customer to enter a sweepstakes contest. Some of the electronic displays on the kiosks mimic video slot and keno machines.
A customer can also enter the sweepstakes without making a coupon purchase, by mailing a request for a code that can be entered into a kiosk to enter the sweepstakes. The mailing is made using a self-addressed envelope provided by the business hosting the kiosk. According to Fanjon's attorney, the fact an exchange of money is not required makes the machines legal.
However, the Gaming Board alleged the machines violated state gaming law and seized the machines from the Morris club in February 2014. Sypolt then sued in Grundy County Circuit Court for the return of the machines. In March 2015, a judge ordered the Board to return the kiosks and permanently enjoined the Board from seizing the kiosks again. However, the judge did not settle the issue of their legality. The Board is appealing the judge's ruling.
Fanjon is claiming the Board denied her license applications as payback for her husband's victory over them in court, pointing out the Board has issued gaming licenses “in the past” to others connected to Windy City Promotions.
Fanjon described the Board’s denial of her applications as “arbitrary and capricious,” causing her “severe financial hardship.” Fanjon added that Sypolt was no longer connected to Windy City Promotions, as he had resigned in December 2014 and, at any rate, she never had any interest in the business.
Fanjon requested a hearing before the Board to appeal its denial, but the Board refused in late July, holding that Sypolt’s involvement with allegedly illegal sweepstakes machines, and his personal and business relationships with Fanjon, were proper grounds to deny Fanjon the licenses. As a result, the Board said there was no reason for a hearing. The Board added that although Sypolt may have left Windy City Promotions, his father was still involved as a sales representative.
The Board pointed out, before it seized the machines, it had warned that “possession of such a device (a sweepstakes machine) will jeopardize suitability for initial or continued licensure.”
Further, the Board denied that its refusal to grant Fanjon licenses was because of Sypolt’s lawsuit against the Board.
Fanjon is represented by Chicago lawyer Lawrence S. Beaumont. A case management conference is scheduled for Dec. 24.