Video poker, pinball machines seized from legion halls

June 17, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

County police have confiscated 12 video poker and pinball machines that they say were used for gambling at two American Legion halls in Severn and Glen Burnie.

In raids Monday police also seized more than $70,000. Authorities made no arrests but said their investigation is continuing.

"We do spot checks on bars consistently throughout the year," said Sgt. Thomas A. Suit, supervisor of the vice unit. "We noticed machines in these particular places."

Police said they received many complaints about the machines in the two legion halls as well as at other bars and clubs throughout the county.

Det. Lee Corbett said police received numerous complaints about the machines, typically from disgruntled patrons, the wives of men who lost money and from legion members who "don't like the devices and want the police to help."

The raids culminated a five-month investigation that included the use of informants and undercover detectives in Post 276, in the 8000 block of Quarterfield Road in Severn, and in Post 40, in the 500 block of 5th Avenue in Glen Burnie.

At the Glen Burnie organization, police said they found club managers and a representative from a vending machine company counting the weekly proceeds. They said they seized $20,000, numerous gambling records, five electronic video machines and three pinball machines.

In the raid in Severn, police said they turned up three video machines and one pinball machine along with $12,000 and records showing more than $50,000 in savings accounts.

Corbett said the pinball machines were built in the 1960s when gambling was legal in the county.

Because they are considered antique, possessing the pinball machines in not illegal, police say -- as long as they are not used. Corbett said the machines seized have been modified to accept quarters instead of nickels and to cover up the payoff slots.

The video machines, which Corbett described as "electronic simulations of one-armed bandits," are illegal to possess. Those machines accept from $1 to $20 bills.

Corbett said a typical video machine will net a bar or organization $1,000 in profits a week, which is split with the vendors, who own the devices. Police would not disclose the name of the vendor who owns the machines seized on Monday.

Gambling machines like the ones confiscated are legal in fraternal organizations on the Eastern Shore as long as half the proceeds are donated to charity.

The latest effort to allow the machines in Anne Arundel came during the last General Assembly session in a bill sponsored by Del. Charles "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach, but the proposal died in committee.

The organizations say the gambling proceeds provide much-needed revenue to the clubs to support charitable activities.

Richard May, the attorney representing the Glen Burnie legion hall, said yesterday he does not know of any gambling activity. He said he didn't want to comment because no one has been charged.

He did dispute, however, that all the money confiscated could be linked to gambling.

"Have you ever seen a police raid?" he asked. "They take everything." May also said that he feels the machines should be legalized in Anne Arundel County.

The old-style pinball machines, with names like "Golden Gate" and "County Fair," have no flippers. Players insert coins, select odds and try to match a combination of numbers and colors with getting the ball into certain holes.

Each credit a player gets earns money, depending on the odds, which is collected at the end of the game from the bartender or lounge director. Money is collected in the same way for the video poker machines, police said.

One pinball machine seized from the Glen Burnie post has a sign on the front saying: "For Amusement only. No prizes or Gambling permitted."

"We are trying to keep [gambling] under control," Corbett said. "We want to send a message to vendors and bar owners that it is illegal to possess these machines. And if you have one, we are going to take it from you."

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