|Pittsfield American Legion Cited For Illegal Gambling|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
02:26AM / Wednesday, June 28, 2017
|The American Legion on Wendell Avenue was cited for having illegal gaming machines.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Investigators believe American Legion Post 68 participated in an illegal gambling operation.
The Alcohol Beverages Control Commission has cited the organization on Wendell Avenue for permitting illegal gambling after a May 18 inspection. The ABCC says investigators found gaming devices and were told that the bartenders would record bets and a vending company would pay out the winners. The Legion will have a hearing on the charge on Sept. 12.
According to the report from investigator Jan Kujawski, ABCC officials conducted the inspection and spoke with bartender Tina Obert and Post Commander John Barrett.
The investigators found "three automatic amusement devices, two labeled as Crazy Bugs and another as Fruit Bonus 96." The ABCC said the machines accept bills of $1, $5, $10, and $20, had markings saying "for amusement only;" had the capability to select the amount of bets; registered the bet by displaying number of points selected; had the ability to double up bets; and had switches on the rear of the machine — all signs of illegal gambling devices.
"Obert stated to investigators that the member would get the bartender and the bartender will write down the number of credits and then clear the points on the machine. Obert stated the bartender would place the piece of paper and place it next to the register. Obert further states that the vendor, Pace Vending, would then leave the money for the member in an envelope near the bar," reads Kujawski's report.
"The member would then come in and the bartender will pay the member out in cash."
The findings have led to a shake up at the American Legion. Attorney William Barry, who is representing the Legion, said a whole new slate of board of directors has been approved and Martha Read will now take over as bar manager. Read has a lengthy history in the restaurant business, with the most recent work being at the Mill on the Floss in New Ashford for the last decade.
Barry called it a "new dawn, new era" for the American Legion. He said the machines, as well as those allegedly involved in the gambling, are now gone and not coming back.
"There was a culture that needed to change," Barry said.
Pittsfield Police Lt. Michael Grady said he's been in communication with the club and vouched that everything "should be all set" moving forward.
At this point, it isn't clear exactly where all of the benefits from the devices were going — whether the Legion received some of the funds or if it was the vendor. In early May, the attorney general's office announced a crackdown
on a separate vending company, which operated throughout the state, in which the proceeds had been split with the owners of establishments.
Barry said the ABCC will be sorting that out as part of the investigation and hearing process.