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Gambling games seized at local markets

Luck runs out for store owners

POSTED March 16, 2012 10:34 p.m.

A tip regarding illegal gambling led to the confiscation of four gaming machines at Turlock markets Tuesday by the Turlock Police Department.

The police department seized three quarter coin pusher games and one slot machine after receiving information from the Department of Justice about the illegal operations. The gaming machines were confiscated from Mercado Michoacana at 954 W. Main St.; Bargain Cigarettes at 1669 Lander Ave.; Fast Stop at 301 W. Canal Dr.; and Wayside Market at 735 Wayside Dr.

Possession of the gaming machines could result in misdemeanor charges for the store owners and possibly a fine, said Turlock Police Investigations Sgt. Russell Holeman.

The Turlock cases stem from a larger investigation by the Department of Justice. The agency has seen an increase in the number of gaming machines popping up in the Bay Area and Southern California and believe the sudden proliferation is attributable to a couple of individuals travelling around the state.

The investigation led an agent to a Turlock store, where he saw one of the machines and contacted the TPD, Holeman said.

During Tuesday’s compliance check investigators found people actively using one of the machines.

“They weren’t happy to see us put a stop to it because they had just put money into it,” Holeman said.

The store owners told investigators they were told the machines were legal and that they could keep half of the profits made, Holeman said.

“If it sounds too good to be true then do some research instead of just taking someone’s word on it,” Holeman advised.

State law prohibits gambling machines, except at approved tribal casinos.

Coin pusher games operate by dropping a coin, usually a quarter, down a slot. Players hope it lands in a spot that results in other coins being knocked off, resulting in a win.

“There is no skill involved with these games. It’s all just luck,” Holeman said.

At least in the case of the machines confiscated Tuesday, the games were rigged to produce more losers than winners.

“When we took apart one we found hidden slots that kept the coin from falling into place,” Holeman said. “They were rigged to lose.”

Investigators recovered about $2,000 from the machines. The games will be destroyed.

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