PA Police Confiscate Video Poker Machines in Raid on Three Social Clubs

Late last month, Pennsylvania authorities raided several social clubs and seized video poker machines which had been illegally paying users.

Eight video poker machines were seized by State Liquor Control enforcement officers from the Vigilance Hose Co. Social Club in Nazareth, and the East Lawn Social Club in Upper Nazareth Township. Soon after, the Hecktown Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 Social Club in Lower Nazareth Township was raided as well.

Carl Strye Jr, mayor of Nazareth and former Vigilance Hose Co. president, remained closed-lip about the operation. “The Vigilance Hose Social Club is a private organization within the borough,” he said. “I defer all questions to the leaders of the organization.”

Dist. Atty. John Morganelli and state police Sgt. Michael T Carol explained that the machines would be forfeited to the state, along with any money inside them. Those funds are considered proceeds of illegal activity and are subject to police seizure.

The owners of the machines might be slapped with penalties, but gamblers who simply played the machines are not likely to face criminal charges. Those directly involved in the operation of the video poker machines could have their liquor license suspended and face a fine.

Poll shows strong support for legalizing video poker machines

The seizure has sparked a debate amongst Commonwealth residents as to whether such machines should remain illegal. Currently, social clubs are only allowed to offer games like raffles, drawings and pull-tabs, but many business owners have decided against offering such prizes due to high fees charged by the state on proceeds.

A poll taken by Lehigh Valley Live suggests that the majority of residents would like to see video poker machines legalized. A little over half of respondents would regulate and tax them in lieu of sending out police to raid social clubs. Another 29% would legalize it, but limit their placement to organizations like the fire department and use the revenue to benefit local community services. Only 14% said that the state already offers many ways to gamble, and video poker machines should stay illegal.

Authorities continue to investigate the case, and whether the clubs will face penalties is still up in the air.