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ITeam: State Cracks Down On Illegal Gambling In Bars

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV I-Team
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Slots parlor

BOSTON (CBS) – There is a major crackdown on illegal gambling. The I-Team found some 50 bars across the state are now facing charges.

Armed with new emergency regulations outlawing video gambling, state agents have fanned out across the state.

State investigators with the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission raided dozens of bars in Dracut and Tyngsboro this week.

WBZ I-Team reporter Joe Shortsleeve reports

The first stop was Katie O’Conleys in Tyngsboro, where agents say video slot and poker machines are part of a nightly routine of illegal gambling.

State investigators say the two gambling machines inside the bar could generate $5,000 to $10,000 a week. But the owner of O’Conley’s was not admitting to any of the allegations.

Robert Heroux said he did not know anything.

“They say there was gambling going on here?” I asked.

Heroux responded, “Yeah… that is what they are saying.”

I added, “They say they had agents in here and they got paid out?”

Heroux answered, “That is what they told me.”

Undercover video shot by the I-Team at another bar in Dracut captured what state agents say is going on in many bars.

It shows video slot machines lined up next to other bar games. Except, when customers put cash in these video slot machines and they win, the undercover video shows it is no different than Foxwoods.

State Investigator Ted Mahony says, ‘They will play the machines and when they record some winnings they will then ask to be paid out. And the bartender or the manager will pay them out.”

I asked, “And that is where the law is broken?”

Mahony answered, “Exactly right.”

The machines themselves are not illegal; it’s only if they are used for real gambling.

The I-Team has learned this is all part of a six-month investigation where agents targeted some 200 bars in eight counties.

Documents obtained by the I-Team show 20 of those night spots from Barnstable to Kingston to Natick, Revere and Lawrence now face state hearings for permitting gambling.

Another 30 bars will be charged as well.

State Treasurer Steve Grossman says new emergency regulations approved by the Attorney General now ban these machines in internet cafes and bars because they are costing the State Lottery millions.

Grossman says, “They can’t break the law and they can’t bring in illegal gambling and get away with it. It hurts the Commonwealth. It hurts their patrons.”

Investigators say one bar they targeted was raking in $1.5 million a year just on the video poker machines.

The State Treasurer tells the I-Team, in addition to the new emergency regulations, lawmakers on Beacon Hill are now crafting legislation which will make it easier to remove the actual machines from bars.

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