Police confiscate gaming machines
City police say the machines are games of chance, not skill.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HUBBARD -- Automated gaming machines with cash payouts are finding their way to city and township businesses, and police are checking to make sure the machines are legal.
City Police Chief Jim Taafe said officers confiscated two such machines from the Marconi Club on North Main Street on Tuesday.
Taafe said the department began to question the legality of some "Tic Tac Toe" and "Tic Tac Fruit" gaming devices set up in local bars. Police checked all 10 to 14 bars in the city Thursday and found the devices in three bars.
Sam Young, an officer at Playtronics, the Youngstown-based company that supplied machines to two of the bars, said the devices have been labeled as games of skill, not games of chance, making them perfectly legal. He said any game requiring more than 50 percent skill to win is considered by the courts as a game of skill.
Taafe said city officials disagree.
A check with several sources, he said, led police to understand that the machines are illegal and to require business owners to remove them.
"Once we talked to the proprietors of these bars and explained that it was the opinion of the city police, prosecutor's office and the attorney general's office that these machines are illegal, we asked them to remove the machines voluntarily," said Taafe.
The machines, Taafe said, had been removed from two of the bars but were still in the public area of the Marconi Club. He said the owners were given an additional 24 hours, but the machines were confiscated when police returned the next day to find the machines still in open view.
Taafe said the machines will be held until the prosecutor's office orders them released. No charges have been filed.
Playtronics did not supply the machines confiscated from the Marconi Club. Young said Playtronics maintains that the machines are legal, but he is unsure how the company will proceed with the matter.
Township Police Chief Todd Coonce said anyone taking a stroll through Truck World or Flying J Truck Stop in the township would see similar machines. He said the "game of skill" claim is why officials have taken no action against the machines.
"This has kind of been an issue here that is going through the entire state of Ohio," he said. "There has been no action taken because we are kind of waiting to see what the bottom line is going to be and if these are gambling machines or not."
Truck World machines
Coonce said officials removed two machines that were labeled as games of chance from Truck World in 1999. In that case, he said, the owner of the machines, under a plea agreement, received two of the machines back, but the township still has the other two.
The Truck World machines have a small plate affixed to the front telling players it is a game of skill and how to collect any winnings. Those who win collect a ticket from the machine and receive their winnings from a counter in the complex.
Coonce said township officials are waiting to see how the issue plays out in court before taking any action, but he will be taking another look at the issue after the confiscation of the machines in the city.
"I don't want to go in there and remove these things, then have a lawsuit that will obviously cost the township some money," he said.
Young said courts have determined that prizes for a game of skill can be anything of value including cash.