- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s prosecutors have dropped charges against the proprietor of a Hollywood bar of unlawfully operating a slot machine at the business last year, and a pastor said his church has fully cooperated in an investigation on proceeds from the gaming activity.
Patrick E. Dugan, the owner of Toot’s Bar, also was charged with illegally having the machine at the business located off Mervell Dean Road in the Sandy Bottom community, for the purpose of gambling. He welcomed word this week that the misdemeanor charges had been dropped.
“That’s great news,” Dugan said, acknowledging that he made a $500 contribution through the state’s attorney’s office for Project Graduation, a long-running program that provides alcohol-free parties each spring for the county’s graduating high school seniors.
St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) said this week at the county courthouse that he was advised that 90 percent of the proceeds from the machine were donated to St. John Francis Regis Catholic Church in Hollywood.
“Mr. Dugan has been placed on notice that should this violation occur again,he will be prosecuted,” Fritz said. “I thought this office made it clear a little over a year ago that slot machines are illegal under the law. Should a violation of this type occur in the future, I will prosecute the owner of the machine, the seller of the machine and the charitable organization that is receiving the proceeds from the illegal machine.”
The Rev. Ray Schmidt, the church’s pastor, said this week that the church has provided all information it has on the matter “in great detail” to local authorities, but that he personally did not know the amount of the parishioner’s donation.
“We had no idea it came from a machine,” Schmidt said. “I had no awareness of it all until the [authorities] called us.”
At the Hollywood bar, a device operated as a slot machine 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 machine, detective Lt. John Payne wrote in a charges application.
During a brief interview this week, St. Mary’s sheriff’s Capt. Daniel Alioto, commander of the agency’s vice-narcotics division, abruptly halted discussion of the continuing investigation when he was told that the charges against Dugan had been dropped.
“It’s a moot point,” Alioto said of questions about how much money was collected through the machine or given to the church. “I doesn’t make a difference,” he said.
Fritz said that charities should get the laws changed if they need money from forms of gambling not allowed in St. Mary’s County.
“This office will no longer turn a blind eye to the charities for receiving the proceeds from unlawful machines,” the prosecutor said. “If the charitable organizations feel it’s necessary to utilize slot machine profits to support their charitable endeavors, it’s incumbent upon them to convince the state legislature to change the law.”
He added, “Nobody has a real desire to prosecute the Catholic church, [or] any charitable, religious or fraternal organization. St. Mary’s County has a long history of slot machines. St. Mary’s County has a long history of gambling.”
Dugan said there will be no more of the machines in the bar. “Absolutely not,” he said.