By Karl Henkel
Three gaming establishments were searched, and approximately 150 machines were seized during raids Friday afternoon, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said.
Though no one has been charged, the prosecutor’s office and the Warren Law Director’s criminal division will now evaluate the evidence and determine whether charges will be filed.
Watkins said the review shouldn’t take very long, from “a couple of days, if maybe a week or two” and said generally gambling offenses are misdemeanors.
The locations are Players Club, 2700 Mahoning Ave. NW, Lot$-A-Loot, 2004 North Road SE and Lucky Charms, 2001 Southern Blvd. NW.
The machines removed from Players late Friday consisted of computer hardware and big-screen monitors.
In the affidavit for the search warrant at Players Club, Detective Richard Tackett of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department twice visited the establishment and twice cashed out with more money than when he entered. Tackett said on both occasions he did not “engage in or play any ‘games of skill’” and the computers he played on were “nothing more than games of chance ... almost identical to the gambling machines commonly seen at legal out-of-state casinos,” according to the affidavit.
Similar undercover investigations occurred at Lot$-A-Loot and Lucky Charms.
“From the information in the undercover investigation, these machines were used for nothing but solely actual gambling games such as slots, poker, 21,” assistant prosecutor Chris Becker said. “Pure and simple gambling.”
Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan issued the search warrant. Warren police and deputy sheriffs, along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, executed the search and seizure.
There were 100 computer/machines at Players Club, 30 at Lot$-A-Loot and 20 at Lucky Charms. The computers at Players Club were described in the affidavit as having card swipes. Using “purchasing points,” a player could then obtain “winning points,” which he or she could cash out from playing games such as slots, poker and bingo.
Becker said all were confiscated and are in custody of Warren police. The establishments weren’t closed because the investigation is ongoing.
Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said the idea of Internet cafes concerns him because there are no regulations.
Watkins said establishments that promote gambling won’t be tolerated.
“We want to make it clear,” Watkins said. “Games or schemes that do not involve skill but are based on chance are illegal in this state.”