Two Easton PA Bars Busted For Illegal Gambling Machines, Over $50K Seized

Posted on February 18, 2020

Two gambling raids in Easton conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement resulted in the seizure of five video gambling machines and $50,000.

Lehighvalleylive.com reported the raids took place on Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. when officers infiltrated Easton Cafe and Citizens Hose Co.

Gambling machines and cash seized

According to a police report, the seizures produced the following.

From Citizens Hose Co. at 839 Line Street:

  • Three video gambling devices
  • $47,996.52

From Easton Cafe at 125 Northampton Street:

  • Two video gambling devices
  • $163

It’s not the first gambling related incident for the social club, Citizens Hose Co. It’s been previously cited for illegal gambling six times, the most recent in 2011.

It’s also not the biggest gambling raid in the history of Northampton County. In 2004, the Order of Fleas, an all-men’s social club, was charged with running an $8.4 million illegal gambling operation.

Social club responds to raid

John Wagner, the treasurer of Citizens Hose Co. reached out to Lehighvalleylive.com to comment on Feb. 18. He said the $48,000 taken last week in the raid was accrued in over 14 months and wasn’t being held in the social club.

Wagner and club president Frank Vigilante were escorted to a bank and wrote a check which was then cashed as part of the PSP investigation.

“We don’t want everybody to think that $50,000 was a one-day thing,” Wagner said.

Wagner told the news source the club used income from three video poker machines and legal games of chance to make $15,000 to $20,000 in donations each year to various charitable causes and to keep up with “general operating expenses.”

Wagner admitted the video poker machines were illegal. He reasoned they helped the club make money so it could do service in the community.

“It takes a lot of money and it helps out.”

Tax form from 2018 reveals the numbers

Numbers from a Citizens Hose Co. tax form says the club made contributions of $14,325 in 2018.

Other numbers from the 2018 tax form, which Wagner signed, include:

  • $1,458,240 in gaming receipts
  • $1,226,147 paid out in cash prizes
  • $49,686 in related expenses
  • $200,000 paid in salaries and benefits
  • $146,857 overall net income

Wagner said the Citizens Hose Co. will no longer offer video gambling and said, “now you’re targeted.”

“Everybody loses. It’s not like we were making millions of dollars.”

‘Games of skill’ irk lawmakers and law enforcement

The reports about the seizures in Easton do not indicate the title of the games or the manufacturer.

PA “skill games” have attracted the attention of the PSP and lawmakers who question the fairness and legality of the games. PA State Police and the PA Office of the Attorney General consider skill games and other non-regulated devices illegal.

The latest is a new entity made up of over 20 professional gaming organizations. Led by the American Gaming Association and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, the group hopes to advance information and lead the charge to stop the spread of unregulated gaming machines.

They see these games as a threat to the regulated gambling market in both PA and beyond.

Regarding the POM “skill games,” the Office of the Attorney General previously commented to PlayPennsylvania:

“We maintain that POM is engaged in illegal activity under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and the Gaming Act and we are committed to supporting law enforcement in its efforts to protect Pennsylvanians from the harms associated with illegal gambling.”

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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