Local Law Enforcement Officers Confuse With Grants to Fight Illegal Slots and Video Poker Machines

On March 6th, 2008, the state gives grants which help law enforcement agencies the opportunity to clamp down on illegal video poker and slot machines are creating some frustration and confusion among some officials in the Western Pennsylvania area.

The Gaming Control Board of Pennsylvania will give out $5 million to clamp down on illegal slots and poker machines. But some law officials are confused on how they will use the money. Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani commented that they have received more than $150,000 to go after illegal gambling. Toprani added that he intends to make a task force to prosecute illegal slot machines but not to go after video poker machines.

State Representative Tim Solobay commented that the grant could not be used to prosecute illegal video poker machines. But gaming board spokesperson Doug Harbach commented that the officials can use the money to combat illegal video poker because the law only use the term slot machine in the loosest possible way. Video poker machines, which can be seen in most bars and shops, can produce thousands of dollars.

The video poker machines are allowed as long as players do not receive a payout and municipalities can impose taxes on what players feed on each video poker machines. That has pushed some municipalities to refuse Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s request to help investigate on who is operating them. Allegheny County has received $250,000 to clamp down on illegal slot machines.

Some businesses also depend on gaming machines so that they will not go bankrupt. Zappala's spokesperson, Mike Manko commented that does not change the situation that laws are being ignored. On the other hand, Upper St. Clair received a total grant of $89,000 just last month. The Allegheny County police officers were given $161,000 and the Pittsburgh police officers receive about $181,000.