SCRANTON — State Troopers and agents from the IRS targeted businesses in several Northeastern Pennsylvania counties last night. Most of their raid was concentrated in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
They went to nearly 200 businesses and seized hundreds of poker machines they said were used illegally.
Wednesday night, authorities raided a total of 187 businesses with video poker machines. What makes the games illegal is if the businesses give players their winnings.
Aside from the scope of the raid, officials aren’t saying much about what will come next for the businesses that were raided.
John Azzarelli has operated Dunmore Cigar in the borough for about 15 years. A small slice of his business came from games of chance.
The spot where Azzarelli kept his video poker machines is now empty as of Wednesday night when State Police and IRS agents raided his place and took the machines. Azzarelli said he was at first surprised. Then, disappointed about the loss of revenue.
“Small businesses in the area, especially our little place here where people come to talk, and hang out, and play small games of chance, and help the business, and small businesses need help right now,” said Azzarelli.
Newswatch 16 stopped in to a lot of Azzarelli’s neighbors. Quite a few of the bars and convenience marts on Drinker Street in Dunmore were raided.
Some owners said authorities took the video poker machines and also cleared the cash drawers. Then, left without telling the businesses what would happen next.
Authorities said a total of 187 businesses in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties were raided, the majority of them in the Scranton area.
“It’s kind of gone unnoticed for years, and some of us have come to depend on it a little bit to pay a bill and I guess we never really realized that it was illegal because no one really bothered it,” added Azzarelli.
Azzarelli said the amount of businesses raided only shows that the state’s laws regarding small games of chance should be changed. For now, he’s expecting to receive some kind of citation or fine.
State Troopers wouldn’t say if any arrests were made, but bar owners would likely face a misdemeanor.
Troopers added that federal charges are pending for some distributors of the machines.