An illegal casino with 200 slot machines that masqueraded as a skill-games parlor has been shut down. But state regulators warned that similar, smaller businesses might still be operating in the state.
An investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the Ohio Casino Control Commission resulted in three Canton-area people being charged with operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering. The government is also seeking forfeiture of $1.3 million and four automobiles.
Charged were Jerry Warren, 70, of Canton; Tracie Warren-Pastore, 45, of North Canton; and Yabacushyanei Bennett, 45, of Canton. The feds plan to seize a 2011 Jaguar XJ8, a 2011 Mazda CX-9, a 2008 Land Rover and a 2000 Porsche Boxter.
“This trio ran their own illegal casino in Canton, complete with 200 slot machines,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, in a release. “Now the game is up, and they will be held accountable for their actions.”
The facility, which was called the Golden Nugget, was raided 11 months ago, but the resulting criminal indictments didn’t come until this week. The Golden Nugget “remained in substantially continuous operation and sometimes had gross revenues of $2,000 or more in a single day of operation,” according to investigative documents.
Matt Schuler, executive director of the Casino Control Commission, said “without a doubt” there are many — perhaps hundreds — of smaller but equally illegal gambling operations in business around the state. “We have evidence that there are places that are referring to themselves as skill games, which are operating games of chance, which is against the law, and paying out cash prizes, which is also against the law.”
After Ohio lawmakers cracked down last year on Internet sweepstakes cafes, many “rebranded themselves as skill-games businesses,” he said.
Schuler said skill games depend only on the skill of the player and cannot be games of chance. Skill-game prizes are limited to merchandise or gasoline gift cards not to exceed $10 in value. If those conditions are not met, the device is illegal, Schuler said.
House Bill 491, a part of the Kasich administration’s budget-revision package, includes a new requirement that skill-game operators must register with and be under the control of the Casino Control Commission. Schuler said that would provide a “uniform and consistent statewide approach to ensuring only legal skill games are operating in Ohio.”
By Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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