PA Authorities Bust Up Multimillion-Dollar Video Gambling Ring

Written By Bart Shirley on July 16, 2018 - Last Updated on August 8, 2022
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Pennsylvania state authorities recently destroyed a multimillion-dollar video gambling organization and arrested its alleged owner. The illegal operation conducted business in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

In the scheme, patrons at bars, restaurants, and clubs could win credits from machines placed in the establishments. The winners would then redeem the credits for cash from the bar owners.

In connection with the investigation, Pennsylvania State Police arrested 58-year-old Anthony Zenner of East Washington on July 12. Zenner, the owner of Zenner Vending, reportedly placed over 140 devices in bars or restaurants since 2006.

Several grand jury witnesses testified that Zenner would collect his money once a week. One witness referred to the event as “Tony Day.”

The witnesses also described how Zenner would split the profits evenly with the location’s owner. The Pennsylvania Attorney General‘s office alleges that Zenner ran his enterprise in 33 locations throughout the four counties.

State authorities worked long and hard on the case

“Today we’ve ended Tony Zenner’s video gambling operation,” said state attorney general Josh Shapiro. “This defendant raked in millions of dollars in illegal proceeds, draining money from Pennsylvanians — and from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — over the last decade.”

The arrest was the final step in a three-year investigation. In April 2018, police confiscated over 100 video poker machines and $83,000 in cash from Zenner’s warehouse and car.

They also froze $63,000 spread across several bank account. In all, they allege that Zenner made $7 million over the course of the past decade.

Officials used undercover surveillance often over the course of the investigation. A state trooper testified to a grand jury that he observed Zenner removing and mixing money together, obscuring its origin.

Zenner denied all the charges through his attorney.

“This is a legitimate vending machine company. He has everything from dartboards, pool tables to soda pop machines, snack machines,” said Christopher L. Blackwell, Zenner’s attorney. “He obtained a license to place these machines within their municipality. He paid the appropriate taxes and the licensing fees that go along with that.”

Blackwell went on to dispute both the alleged income amount and ownership of all the machines which were confiscated. He also wasn’t sure if Zenner owned all 142 machines that had been taken as evidence.

Illegal gambling odd choice with so many options in PA

There are a plethora of legal options available. From the four counties involved, three casinos – Rivers Casino, Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino – lie within an hour’s drive.

Even if those opportunities weren’t sufficient, online gambling will soon be a reality in Pennsylvania. On July 12, Parx Casino became the first casino in Pennsylvania to file for an interactive gaming license.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is also finalizing its regulations for sports betting in the Keystone State. After that, it is likely that sports betting will be available at some of the state’s casino properties.

That list of properties is also due to grow. Stadium Casino in Philadelphia is under construction and scheduled to open in 2020.

Every one of those legal options pays taxes to the state. Because of that fact, the state has both ethical and financial motivations to pursue illegal gambling operations.

No government body would ever reduce its vigilance when those two aspects combine. However, $7 million over the course of a decade may make it worth the risk to some.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. A former teacher of high school math and business, Bart writes about online casinos, sports betting and poker for a number of Catena Media's Play-branded sites. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M.

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