Two minimarts in suburban Philadelphia operated an illegal underground casino in plain sight, utilizing video gaming devices, Your Content has learned.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer today announced that an undercover investigation into illegal gambling machines in Delaware County had resulted in the seizure of illegal video gaming devices at two minimarts, one in East Lansdowne and a second in Clifton Heights.
“Unauthorized gaming machines have proliferated in convenience stores, pizza parlors, and laundromats throughout the Commonwealth. Due to inaction in Harrisburg, these devices are currently unregulated, with no oversight to determine if the machines are operating fairly and no prohibition on minors playing the games. As District Attorney, I am committed to supporting law enforcement in its effort to protect Pennsylvanians from the harms associated with illegal gambling,” said Stollsteimer.
Currently, there are approximately 24,000 slot machines located in Pennsylvania’s 12 heavily regulated casinos. In addition, video gaming terminals (“VGTs”) are located exclusively at approximately 44 authorized truck stops. Both slot machines and VGTs are heavily regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and both are required to have minimum payout requirements, as well as controls in place regarding use by minors. Gambling activities outside those specifically authorized by statute are subject to criminal sanctions.
It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 illegal gaming devices of the type seized in Delaware County. The owners and operators of these illegal gaming devices claim that – unlike slot machines and VGTs – they are not games of “chance” and are instead games of “skill.” Games of “skill” have never been authorized by the General Assembly, and there are no regulations to ensure the kind of consumer protections that are in place for other types of gaming devices.
“While we believe that Harrisburg should enact clarifying legislation, pending such action, we will continue to work closely with the Pennsylvania State Police to investigate and prosecute the operators of these illegal machines. We agree with the PSP that the manufacturers of these games do not do enough to calibrate their odds to avoid gouging consumers, and to ensure that minors are not permitted to play these games,” said Stollsteimer.
A search warrant was executed at the Sunoco Mini Mart located at 555 E Baltimore Pike, Clifton Heights, in November 2020 and six video gambling machines were seized and transported to the Criminal Investigation Division.
The Mini Mart is operated by the defendant, Bhamran Gas and Wash, Inc. A search warrant was executed in November 2020 at the Exxon Mini Mart located at 1001Baltimore Pike, East Lansdowne, and seven video gambling machines were seized and transported to CID. The defendant is identified as 1001 Baltimore Ave East Lansdowne, LLC.
“I want to thank the Pennsylvania State Police, Liquor Enforcement Officer David Schoppe, Detective John Hoffner of CID, and Deputy District Attorney Doug Rhoads for their work in pursuing this prosecution. The operators of these illegal machines need to understand that we take our obligation to protect the citizens of Delaware County against illegal gambling seriously,” said Stollsteimer.
The District Attorney and the Criminal Investigations Division remind anyone in Delaware County who observes suspicious activity to call 911 immediately and provide the most specific and accurate details possible to assist law enforcement agencies investigating the call for service.