DuBOIS — A total of 60 skill game machines, plus redemption centers, in eight establishments across Clearfield County were confiscated by law enforcement officers Tuesday, according to District Attorney Ryan Sayers.
“Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) and state police approached me last year in regards to these machines,” said Sayers. “Contrary to the popular belief and one of the manufacturers, these machines are gambling machines and are illegal under the case law and statute as it stands in Pennsylvania. They are not regulated. They are not taxed.
“What people don’t realize is that with Keno machines, they are highly regulated and they have to pay out at least 85 percent, most payout 89 to 91 percent of the proceeds from their slot machines, while these (illegal skill game) machines that are in our county and communities are only paying out maybe 60 percent,” said Sayers. “Obviously, they are taking advantage of people in our community. Not only are they illegal, they are taking advantage of people as well.”
Sayers said machines and cash were taken from the following establishments: Snappy’s in both Clearfield and DuBois; the Penfield Minit Mart; The After Dark, Clearfield; Redneck Reno, DuBois; Choice Cigarettes, DuBois; BP gas station, Clearfield, by Interstate 80; and N&T Convenience Store, Clearfield.
“These are the ones the LCE and state police identified for this operation based on the quantity of machines and the type of businesses that have them. Some of those being liquor establishments where liquor enforcement was involved and some of the establishments did not have liquor licenses and those were handled directly by the state police,” he said. “It’s not practical at this time to go roundup what would be over 1,000 machines in the county.”
The amount of cash confiscated in what the LCE is calling, “Operation Wooden Nickel,” has not yet been determined, said Sayers, because the machines and redemption centers have not been opened yet.
No charges have been filed at this time.
“Potentially charges will come in the future,” said Sayers. “There is still additional investigation that needs to be done, specifically in regards to accessing the machines and getting quantities, printouts, etc.”
Sayers said there is always the potential to confiscate more machines.
During the operation, there were no incidents according to what state police and liquor enforcement officials told Sayers.
“Overall, most establishments were cooperative,” said Sayers. “Some of the employees of some of the establishments, my understanding is they were relieved because some of these machines, depending on the time of day, bring in some unsavory individuals.”
With literally hundreds of these machines popping up everywhere across Pennsylvania, Sayers said, “Some of the manufacturers contend, there are some in Common Pleas Court in Beaver County, though it’s not binding across the state, and they hang their hat on that decision and then they try to tell these establishments that these machines are legal. Under the current state law, they are not.”
Sayers said there have been other similar operations like this one in western Pennsylvania.
“The easy way to fix this would be for the legislature and the governor to amend the statute and properly regulate and pass these machines,” said Sayers. “But right now these machines are under the table cash operations, not regulated, which means the public is not protected from the potential greed of these establishments and these manufacturers. I have a duty to address mine when I believe the community is in potential harm because of these operations.”