During a routine license renewal check of a local business, Mount Pleasant Police found eight illegal gambling machines on the premises. Because five were located in a back room, the owner was cited with running an illegal gambling casino.
A Mount Pleasant gas station could face sanctions after police discovered what they say is an illegal casino gambling operation in a back room.
According to Mount Pleasant Police, officers visited SF Petroleum, 2325 Racine Street, on Saturday for a routine license renewal check. State statute clearly defines video gambling machines as illegal, but it is a felony for establishments with a Class A liquor license to have any of the machines. Police have referred the incident to the Department of Revenue for further review and possible action.
If a business with a Class B liquor license has the machines, it is not a felony and falls under the jurisdiction of the DOR. The tavern or restaurant owner could face fines of up to $500 per machine if they have five or fewer video gambling machines. Six or more machines, and the local police can seize the machines without warning.
Earlier this spring, Mount Pleasant trustees unanimously voted to amend a village ordinance that had essentially been licensing video gambling to bring the village into compliance with state statute.
During the inspection of SF Petroleum, police observed three video gambling machines along a front wall in the store. Because the gas station only holds a Class A license, any video gaming with a payout is illegal.
But as officers continued their inspection, they found five additional machines in a back room marked, “Employees Only,” with people using them. When asked if the machines pay out, the report reads, “(the officer) inquired if the machines were paying out to the parties that were using them and they indicated that they did.”
Police also discovered two of the store clerks did not have the proper operator’s license required by the village.
According to a copy of the inspection report provided to Patch, the state Department of Revenue has been notified, “and they are taking care of compliance.” The business owner, Aziz Abdul, was given 10 days to remove the machines from the premises.
“This is basically an illegal casino gambling operation,” said Village Clerk/Treasurer Veronica Rudychev. “Until they are in compliance and their employees have operator’s licenses, we’re not renewing their Class ‘A’ liquor license.”
When Patch visited SF Petroleum on Friday, the machines were still in place. We asked to speak with Abdul, but he was not at the store. Employee Debroy Ram admitted the machines have been in the store for about a year, but wanted us to know they didn’t own them. We asked if he knew they were illegal.
“No, I didn’t know that,” he said. “But we don’t own them. A guy put them in and he takes care of them.”
We called SF Petroleum two hours after our visit to reach Abdul for comment, and Ram told us that Abdul had been at the store, but left again. Two hours later, we got a call from Dan Takarian, a distributor of gambling machines, internet kiosks or sweepstakes like what is at SF Petroleum. He said Abdul called him concerned and asked Takarian to call and try and explain the situation.
“What Aziz has in the front of his store are internet kiosks so they aren’t illegal,” Takarian said. “We’ve been very diligent about following state statute when designing these games so they’re no different from the sweepstakes games at McDonald’s or Pick-n-Save.”
He said his games meet the benchmarks for sweepstakes and not for video gambling.
“The games on my machines have a start and finish date, you can play the game for free and it has set payouts,” he said.
What Abdul has in his back room, Takarian acknowledged, is illegal.
“Aziz was given 10 days to comply so he is going to unplug the machines and put a sheet over them on Sunday,” he said. “He wants to comply with the law. I’ll make sure of it. Aziz did wrong, and he knows it.”
Takarian went a little further and said that if Mount Pleasant Police want the machines removed from the back room at SF Petroleum, he’ll make sure it happens. The internet kiosks in the store, though, aren’t going anywhere.
“I told him not to worry about the ones out front because those are legal, according to my lawyers,” he added.
The DOR doesn’t agree, and the state Department of Justice doesn’t seem inclined to agree, either.
“We (DOJ) haven’t ‘cleared’ any machines, and we can’t really give any kind of opinion without looking at a particular machine,” DOJ Communications Officer Dana Bruek said via email in April.
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Southside gas station cited for running illegal gambling casino