Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A losing bet

Is it me or is the state taking an increasingly dim view of illegal gambling?

In recent weeks the state Gaming Control Board awarded grants to local municipalities to crack down on illegal slot machines. Delaware County got a chunk of money.

Then last week, a phalanx of state police and agents from the state Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement descended on a Ridley Township tavern, seizing a video poker machine, a video slot machine, some gambling paraphernalia and $15,000 in cash.

Tuesday the state upped the ante, in a manner of speaking. Police announced the results of a six-year probe into a huge illegal gambling ooperation in the county with the arrest of 17 people in an operation they dubbed “Operation Delco Nostra.”

The ring specialized in those long traditions of organized crime, bookmaking, illegal gambling and loan-sharking.

The operation had ties to organized crime figures in Philadelphia, and was taking in as much as a million dollars a month. Authorities said that in one week the operation, allegedly directed by Nicholas “Nicky the Hat” Cimino of Wallingford, took in more than $200,000 in wagers.

Police say Cimino ran what amounted to a casino out of a non-descript building on MacDade Boulevard.

You can read all the details here.

In a way, the state is merely protecting its investment. In case you missed it, the state is now in the gambling business. We’re not talking about the lottery.

We’re talking about those glittering casinos – and the their thousands of legal slot machines -- that take in millions every week. One of them is located not far away from the dingy building on MacDade that police say was the hub of this illegal operation.

What’s it mean? The state is getting serious about illegal gambling. For years a lot of people looked the other way at the pervasive illegal slots that operated in taverns and other social clubs across the county.

Apparently, not anymore. That’s now competition. The state wants you to drop that money at Harrah’s, not your local tavern.

Besides, it’s legal at Harrah’s. It’s not at the neighborhood tap. And 17 people learned that the hard way this week.

What the state is saying is that it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to illegal gambling. Roll the dice on this one and it’s increasingly likely you’ll come out a loser.

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