January 4, 2010

City warns Racine businesses to pull video gambling machines

Racine convenience stores and gas stations are pulling out their video gambling machines after a city letter warned the machines may be seized.

City Attorney Rob Weber sent a letter dated Dec. 17 to all Class A liquor license holders - mostly convenience stores and gas stations - in Racine warning that possession of video gambling machine was a felony under Wisconsin law. The letter urged removal of any illegal machines by Dec. 31, 2009.

Weber's letter came two days after the Racine City Council voted to enact local fines against businesses that violated the law. Businesses can be fined $500 per machine, and the machines can be confiscated with money in them, under the ordinance, which mirrors state law.

Local convenience stores are taking the letter seriously. Odd Fellows, a convenience store at 817 Main St., has already removed its machines and a handful of other gas stations and stores have reportedly pulled the plug on their small-time gambling operations, as well.

City enforcement of the state law on video gambling does not affect bars, which hold Class B liquor licenses. They are allowed under state law to have up to five video gambling machines. The exemption for Class B liquor licenses has convenience store owners crying unfair. But Bar owners are reaping the rewards of an aggressive lobbying effort to open up gambling in places other than Native American casinos. No doubt locally bars will benefit if video gambling machines are pulled out of convenience stores - ie. the competition.

Alderman Aron Wisneski, who chairs the city's Public Safety and Licensing Committee, is playing a key role in enforcing the video gambling law. He said Monday the city is reacting to complaints its received from residents about gambling in neighborhood stores. He added the machines in businesses without a Class B liquor license is clearly a felony under state law.

Locally, police are concerned that a proliferation of video gambling creates additional targets for crime, Wisneski said. Stores that carry machines presumably have cash on hand to pay out winners. While none of the machines payout big money - the max is around $500 - it could attract criminal activity, he said.

"The police came to us and said, 'We want to do something,'" Wisneski said.

The city has done its homework on the issue. Police officers are trained to identify and confiscate gambling machines (a seemingly simple process, but important for testimony to hold up in court). They also have legal precedent. The City of Milwaukee confiscated video gambling machines about 10 years ago and fined the owners. The owners fought the fines, but lost in circuit court. The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2002.

Wisneski said the city does not want to fine anyone over video gambling machines. It just wants fewer machines in the city.

That said, it's likely the city will move forward against businesses that illegally hold on to video gambling machines.

"When we roll this out, we're going to bust places and we're going to win in court," Wisneski said.


  1. About time, what's little Gus going to do now? Oh no!!!!

  2. Probably keep doing what he has been doing.

  3. You mean no little Vegas in West Racine?

  4. What is Spangenburg going to talk about now?

  5. It's a good start but should have been enforced 10 years ago when surrounding jurisdictions wanted to tighten up the inspections. Racine went the other way then which caused Mt.Pleasant to back off. The Tavern League shapes enforcement policy east of I-94, like it or not. How about having the PD look for the illegal gambling in the class B sites and bust a few of these places? Pull tabs, sports book, football pools, etc are big bucks for the owners and against the las as well.

  6. What took so long -- gambling addiction has destroyed many peoples lives. Dumping money in these machines are just a game to some people. Others it's there family food money. Thank God their doing something.

  7. What is this garbage about sending out letters to people who are ALREADY breaking the law? Why don't we get letters from the PD after running through a speed trap telling us that unless we stop speeding we are going to be issued a ticket? This is the same as giving someone who is breaking the law a pardon if they stop. These illegal machines should be siezed and the operators charged and fined for breaking the law, not given a way out from known criminal activity. Just another example of our city council scratching the backs of their buddies..., and we all know what "buddies" are.

  8. Graham

    Just what are "buddies"?

  9. 9:41

    My guess is that buddies equal crony's I often wonder how many of the mayors pals have made money on that fact. I do hope that The Milwaukee paper might look into this I know I have sent much information to 620 AM.

  10. The corruption in Racine is unbelievable. If it was a city that anyone gave a damn about, something might actually be done about it. As it is, LOL!

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  12. All these laws but no inforcement! That must be part of Dickerts 10 year plan!?

  13. Pizzman

    Anon up above beat you to it saying this should have been done 10 years ago. That is the new Dickert 10 year plan. Just say everything should have been done ten years ago and continue working on the Delorian to go Back to the Future. Only this time the car will jump at 10mph instead of 88mph.

    Watch out for the Libians John!

  14. The ten year plan as I see it
    1) Raise taxes
    2)Give pals jobs or City Contacts
    3)Cause as much damage to the City as possible to cause houses to go on the market
    4) Insure friends in real estate get to sell these homes.
    5) Do what ever it takes to raise the demand for low income housing
    6) Trap the poor in Racine with low wage jobs so they are to poor to move and uneducated so they can not get better jobs
    7) Claim to be one phone call from Obama so the nuts at C4C will be happy as they are fleeced with higher taxes and new fees
    8) Claim to be Green as Racine seeks to sell water from Lake Michigan
    9) Open Swiss Bank account
    10) If defeated in election or two full terms move to A sister City enjoy wealth

  15. So the video slot machines are LEGAL at Class B bar locations? Nice to see this paper does its research for its stories.

    Sounds stupid or at least corrupt to order the machines removed from 5-10 gas stations but ignore the exact same machines at 50-100 taverns in the same city.

  16. They have been too busy trying to criminalize garage sales and parking.

  17. Let's just legalize gambling and tax it. Why should we alow the Indians to benefit - let's turn some of this revenue back to the state - end of story.

  18. I guess 10:57 is the supreme being in that we are not allowed to speak anymore.

  19. 7:20 - You've got. It's the solution. No more discussion required, You are dismissed, I'm done with you.

  20. You funny!

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