- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Police action against slot machines has resumed in St. Mary’s. On Friday, lawmen charged the proprietor of a Hollywood bar with unlawfully operating one of the devices at the business last year.
“There’s an investigation going on,” the county sheriff’s vice-narcotics commander said Monday, while declining to comment on the charges issued last week by a court commissioner. Court papers state that law officers seized electronic gaming equipment after two visits last year to Toot’s Bar.
Patrick E. Dugan also was charged with illegally having the machine at the business off Mervell Dean Road for the purpose of gambling. Dugan said Monday that he has not been served with the charges issued through a summons, and could not comment on the matter.
In 2008, as state authorities wrestled with gambling machine issues and legislators pushed through new laws, local law officers warned businesses to return the machines to their owners, assisted in seizing some during a federal investigation, and returned others as courts waited for the new laws to take effect. Four machines were seized from a business in 2010. No criminal convictions arose from any of the investigations in St. Mary’s.
“This is a problem that arises from time to time,” sheriff’s Capt. Daniel Alioto said Monday of gambling offenses in the county. “It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with it. When it comes up, we address it as quickly as possible.”
Machines at Toot’s operated as slot machines by allowing players to insert money and win or lose money depending on the size of their bet “combined with the random function of the machines,” sheriff’s Lt. John Payne wrote in a charges application.
Dugan admitted obtaining the machines about a year ago, the charging papers state, and he told police that he was donating a portion of the money to a local church.
A conviction for the misdemeanor slot-machine operating and gambling offenses each carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Alioto said that “slots are a small part of the gambling that goes on around here,” and that local law officers address any offenses they detect.
“The people of St. Mary’s County should be ecstatic that we don’t pick and choose what laws we enforce,” the captain said. “We are consistent in what we do.”