Illegal gambling machines, also known as “skills games,” recently played a role in two alleged crime operations in Pennsylvania.
Trooper Robert E. Covington Jr. is suspended, according to officials.
Covington is a 13-year veteran of PSP with the Bureau of Gaming Enforcement, responsible for enforcement at Pocono Downs Casino.
He allegedly is the co-owner of Sinners Swing Gentlemen’s Club in Mayfield Borough, Lackawanna County.
Gambling one of the charges
According to a State Police release, prostitution, gambling and money laundering took place at the club.
Covington received a suspension. He and three others, including co-owner David P. Klem, were recently charged following a 17-month law enforcement investigation and grand jury finding. The other two facing charges are a manager and an employee.
T-shirts available for sale at the club read: “I support working women 1 pole at a time.”
A hot pink barn near the roadway with signage out front, the establishment was far from subtle.
STATE TROOPER ARRESTED 🚨Trooper Robert Covington of Olyphant is one of 4 people arrested in connection with alleged…
Posted by Elizabeth Worthington on Thursday, February 11, 2021
Unregulated gambling machines among illicit activity
According to a PSP spokesman, the gambling machines in the club are skills machines.
The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation handled the case. Senior Deputy Attorney General Erik L. Olsen and Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Adrian S. Shchuka are prosecuting the case.
PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro said:
“We are charging four individuals for running an illegal gambling and prostitution ring. No one is above the law, and when a member of law enforcement breaks the law and breaks the public trust that all officers are duty-bound to protect, there must be accountability.”
Colonel Robert Evanchick, the commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, added:
“The criminal conduct uncovered in this case betrays the trust of the communities we serve, and we hope the investigation and the resulting charges demonstrate our department’s commitment to fairness and transparency.”
Skills games targeted by “Sledgehammer Bandits”
In an unrelated case, three Philly men face smash-and-grab charges after allegedly pulling off a string of sledgehammer attacks on devices called “games of skill” at locations in the city.
Working as a team, one served as a lookout and another distracted customers. The third smashed the machines and took the coins.
Each grab took just over a minute.
An alert state trooper stopped the men’s vehicle.
Unlicensed gambling machines beget more crime
Ironically, the gambling devices in both the Philly and Northeast PA cases are of questionable legality in the first place. They are not licensed, inspected, regulated or taxed.
Confiscation of machines has been spotty after AG Shapiro’s decision to hold off on enforcement while waiting for the legislature and courts to definitively weigh in.
Only a handful of legal actions have taken place since. There are estimates that the illegal machines outnumber the legal devices in PA’s heavily taxed and regulated casinos.
The last major crackdown was last September.
Lead image via Elizabeth Worthington Facebook page.