ITeam: State Cracks Down On Illegal Gambling In Bars

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV I-Team

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.

  • Bruce

    I have never played one of these machines; legally or otherwise. The one line in this story tells it all; if the state can’t have the money noone can. I do know some of these places use the profits to help people who are needy or charities; that’s more than the state does; their only charity is these greedy legislators. Just ask the last three speakers of the house!!!

    • Teresa

      PLEASE!!!! One of these owners unfortunately is a relative. I happen to know none of profits are going to the needy-unless you wish to say it helps with his personal gambling needs and God only knows what else!!!! He also introduced his wonderful young son into his “business” and God bless his son-he’s no longer with us in this world. People who knowingly operate these machines illegally do so by choice. My relative is a trained tradesman but chooses to do what he does, without caring about the effects on anyone else. Certainly he doesn’t make this family proud!

  • Marilyn Harris

    I just spent 2 days at Atlantic City. there were four of us spending our money in new jersey, We would much rather spend that part of our tax money in our our own state rather than NJ or Foxwoods . Foxwoods is really not run by any native americans that tribe was extinct. One of the Last ancestors had so little native blood that he deemed himself white until they figured $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    How about that we could gamble in our own state than have to go to foxwoods or ATLANTIC cITY WE ALSO go TO tWIN RiVERS iIN RI

    • Italo

      Marilyn, I think you’re right but, don’t forget, this is Massachusetts and that won’t happen: because it could make sense financially for us, and we have a state government political system whose members can’t get out of their own way. But whatever you do, don’t scratch one of the bronze chicks in the Public Garden, or block a major Back Bay street during a police-escorted Red Sox Team motorcade to Fenway Park–after all, you don’t want those priorities of our state’s messed up! PS: I hope you all won big in NJ! :)

  • Jim Kraskouskas

    Why don’t you do some real reporting and investigate the hundreds of millions of dollars being gambled in private social, ethnic and sports clubs across Massachusetts? All you did here is follow the ABCC around after they tipped you off that the Treasurer wanted some press. Our state is broke, we tax everything to death, but the people who provide these machines and the clubs that use them are above the law and making millions. Do some real reporting and get to this story. The worst kept secrete in Massachusetts.

    • Kate

      the people providing the machine are not making millions, their figures are off. by ALOT. they’re just trying to make this look worse than it actually is, they just want whatever money they can get their hands on.

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  • Kate

    This is my dads business, these machines get taken out then he is out of a job! Hes been doing this for 20+ years why would they JUST decide to do this NOW?! i think that this is rediculous… are these people going to give him a new job when they take his away? probably not because they don’t care ! i can’t believe this… he’s worked his ass off in these seedy bars forever and now he may be jobless, and not qualified to do much else because he’s only been fixing these machines since i can remember ! they never think about who theyre hurting in cases like this, only that they aren’t getting money? What about my family when they wont have money either!? but whatever i guess no one would give a damn about us anyways. stupid state.

  • Maggie

    Is it the state or the town who issue the permits for these establishments to have the machines? Either way, why give them permits if you don’t want them to have the games?

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