Illegal gambling crackdown includes Springfield, county bars

A multi-state crackdown on illegal gambling operations included dozens of citations against Springfield and Clark County bars.

The Ohio Investigative Unit, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service conducted 34 search warrants on illegal gambling at liquor establishments.

“Those machines are in essence video gambling devices just because odds are set and the patron cannot manipulate the outcome of the game,” said Harold Torrens, lead OIU agent on the case.

Agents conducting the raids Wednesday confiscated 55 electronic gambling machines from 15 bars in the county, Torrens said.

Investigators wrote a total of 525 citations — which include gambling offenses — against Ohio liquor permit holders and agents seized 148 electronic video gambling devices, Torrens said.

Local bars accumulated 385 gambling offense citations and liquor permit holder violations, investigators said.

Michael Turner has owned the Nifty 50’s Bar, 365 Ludlow Ave., for more than a decade and has had the machines in the establishment for eight or so years, he said.

“I’m lost, I’m really lost at what happened here because I didn’t know that we were breaking the law,” Turner said.

The distributor that installed two game machines in his bar told Turner they were legal and even provided what appeared to be a court order to allow the machines, Turner said.

But now the machines have been removed from his bar, his liquor permit was taken off the wall and the question remains what permit violations or even criminal charges Turner and the other bar owners in the county will face.

The charges include knowingly permitting public gambling, keeper of the place and operating an electronic gambling machine, state agents said.

If the penalties include a high fine, Turner said he might have to shut down his neighborhood bar.

“We’d have to close — there’s no way we could recover,” he said.

The other bars in Springfield and Clark County were issued citations and/or violations, the release states. Those bars include:

•Wayside Tavern, 2288 S. Yellow Springs St.

•Wagon Wheel, 10005 S. Burnett Road.

•Social Club, 210 W. Main St.

Sidetrax Tavern, 112 W. Main St.

•Ole’ Brick Tavern, 3475 Mechanicsburg Road.

•Nite Owl Tavern, 601 W. Main St.

•Nifty 50’s Bar, 365 Ludlow Ave.

•Main Street Pub, 2014 E. Main St.

•Hop Bar, 213 Lytle Ave.

•County Line Drive Thru, 6978 Urbana Road.

•Chap’s, 2352 S. Yellow Springs St.

•Bogie’s Bar and Grill, 3950 Springfield-Xenia Road.

•Boone Saloon, 3490 Dayton Ave.

•John’s Drive Thru, 826 W. Main St.

•T&A Grocery, 1572 Kenton St.

The Ooh-Ooh Drive Thru, 6775 Dayton-Springfield Road, in Enon was also administratively cited, the release states.

“Electronic video gambling machines are illegal in Ohio,” said Eric Wolf, OIU enforcement commander, said in a statement. “These companies set the odds and often times the Ohio citizens lose.”

The investigation into the illegal gambling is ongoing, detectives said, and machines were being removed from bars across the state Thursday.

Criminal charges in the case will be filed in the future, Torrens said.

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