- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Patrons can once again partake in electronic gaming at Crooked I Sports Bar and Grill in Chesapeake Beach.
Christopher Russell, one of the bar and grill’s five owners, said during an interview Monday that the electronic bingo machines the establishment once had have been permanently altered to “basically work like a sweepstakes.”
Only 14 of the 105 machines were turned on for 10 days and were shut off again to work out any problems in the system. He said he anticipates all the machines coming back in this manner by Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Russell explained that patrons can enter Crooked I, go up to a member of the staff and request their free credits, which the patron will then enter into the machine that will then reveal the patron’s winnings.
Additional free credits can be given to players with the purchase of food, drinks or instant bingo cards.
A state law, passed during the 2012 Maryland legislative session, made electronic bingo machines, the type Crooked I used to operate, illegal as of July 1.
“We’re trying to compete ... with places down the street that have slot machines,” he said of the altered machines.
In July, Crooked I was forced to shut down its 105 electronic bingo machines after an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge denied the request for a preliminary injunction against the state of Maryland and the business’ temporary restraining order against the state expired.
CCI Entertainment LLC — which does business as Crooked I Sports Bar and Grill — was granted a temporary restraining order July 1 from Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against Maryland to enjoin the state from taking any action against CCI and its owners for the operation of its electronic bingo machines.
CCI and its owners also filed a lawsuit in June in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against Maryland and the government agents responsible for enforcing the new law.
According to the lawsuit, the bar and grill receives about 95 percent of its revenue from its electronic bingo machines.
“There were a number of things that were under discussion that they thought wouldn’t violate the law,” said Ronald H. Jarashow, Crooked I’s lawyer, on Thursday.
Crooked I did file an appeal of the judge’s July decision, Jarashow said.
Russell said that although he doesn’t anticipate this being a problem with the state because people aren’t playing a game of chance through wagering or betting, he does believe the state will do some investigating into the matter.
Money from the bar and grill’s marketing budget is being used to pay out customers, Russell said.
“You don’t have to pay to play and we didn’t raise the prices,” he added.
It took Crooked I several months to get to this point, Russell said, explaining that companies had to come in to remove hardware from the machines and update software. “It’s not like we did this overnight.”
Although the machines were only on for 10 days, Russell said they were received pretty well by most.
“We have a loyal customer base and they want a reason to come back,” he said. The people that didn’t like it much, he said, were those “die-hard gamblers.”