New Castle News

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May 2, 2014

Liquor Control: Vendor was prime target in county raid

NEW CASTLE — Citizen complaints of illegal gambling machines drew 110 law enforcement officers to Lawrence County this week.

The officers, from the Pennsylvania state police bureau of liquor control enforcement, raided 35 Lawrence County bars and clubs simultaneously with open inspections at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

They seized 74 video gambling machines and $80,287 said to be linked to illegal gambling.

Lt. James Jones of the bureau’s Erie office, said officials collected video slot machines, video poker machines and other electronic gambling devices from the establishments that all hold liquor licenses.

Officers also raided Medure ATM Service Providers at 114-116 Atlantic Ave. and the home of company president Frank Medure at 9 Ciara Drive.

No arrests have been made yet.

Jones would not release the names of any of the establishments.

“This was an open inspection, an administrative function,” he said. “We won’t release the names until the process has run its course.”

Jones said it could be four to six weeks before investigations are concluded and it is determined if citations will be issued.

If the business cooperates with the bureau and violations are minimal, Jones noted, there may be no citation issued and the business may never be named.

Jones said the prime target in the raid was the vendor, Medure.

“That’s why we obtained a search warrant to enter his home and business,” adding the warrant “is currently sealed.”

Bureau of liquor control enforcement officers do not need search warrants to enter or seize anything from businesses with liquor licenses, he noted.

The raid was led by the bureau’s compliance, gambling and auditing unit and included officers from most of the bureau’s nine district enforcement offices, the bureau of criminal investigation and bureau of information and technology services, as well as state police from troops D and E.

He said most businesses had between one and three machines and the largest number in one location was eight — taken from Medure’s warehouse.

Jones said this raid, like most, had resulted from citizen complaints that led to an investigation. This investigation was under way for 13 months.

The machines taken in the raids, he said, “are not legal anywhere in North America,” adding, they are not the same as those used in Pennsylvania’s casinos.

“Casino gaming machines are inspected regularly and operate on a true odds basis. This means winners are selected on a 100 percent random basis.

“The illegal machines are set to operate on a retention ratio. The vendor pre-determines how much money each machine will keep, generally around 35 percent. It will keep that no matter how lucky you are. The machine retains 35 cents on every dollar played. We consider these deceptive methods that cheat the player.”

Despite these odds, patrons continue to play, Jones said, and the machine and bar owners “make a lot of profit very rapidly.”

 “Lawrence County people are known to be big fans of these machines,” he added.

The machines, valued at $3,000 to $5,000 each, are owned by the vending company, Jones said, and generally the vendor and bar owner split the revenues generated.

After the investigation is completed, Jones said, the department will obtain an order to destroy the machines seized in the raid.

In Pennsylvania, casinos are the only establishments allowed permits to operate slot machines.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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