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Nine officers, employees of New Kensington's Spartaco Sporting Club arrested

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, April 18, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
Some of the 19 video poker machines confiscated from the Spartaco Club in New Kensington on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Enforcement
Some of the 19 video poker machines confiscated from the Spartaco Club in New Kensington on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
The Spartaco Club, along the 2200 block of Constitution Boulevard in New Kensington, as seen on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
The Spartaco Club, along the 2200 block of Constitution Boulevard in New Kensington, as seen on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

Nine people associated with the Spartaco Sporting Club were arrested Tuesday after a 10-month illegal gambling investigation at the New Kensington club.

Those charged include five of the club's officers and four employees.

The officers are Armando Spataro, president; Sam Spataro, trustee; Phil Corso, vice president; Jeff Sacre­ponte, secretary; and John Borgo, trustee.

Employees charged are Richard Corso, Mindy Wilson, Deborah Peoples and Janie Collings.

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement raided the club on Constitution Boulevard on July 26.

A total of 19 illegal video gambling devices, along with computer motherboards for the devices, money and various documents were seized.

Police said the devices seized from the club's basement operated on a “retention ratio” rather than true odds, like legal video gambling machines in casinos.

The retention ratio machines are illegal in any venue in North America, police said.

“They do not operate on true odds. They guarantee the operator a certain profit,” said Lt. James A. Jones, Jr., western section commander for the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

Jones said machines' operators can set to them to retain a certain amount of money that is spent over a certain number of game cycles.

In such a machine, game outcomes are compared against how much money has been paid out, and, if necessary, the machine will turn a winning game into a losing one to meet its profit goal.

Jones said authorities usually find such machines set to retain 35 percent of the money gambled, which is generally the maximum designed into the machine by the manufacturer. He did not know how the Spartaco machines had been set up.

“These machines are a problem in the area, and the Pittsburgh district office receives numerous complaints from the community,” he said.

Those complaints have included stories of people putting entire paychecks into such machines, leaving them unable to pay rent or buy food.

“It's more than just entertainment,” he said. “It's actually a public nuisance, and it's something we're actively trying to curtail.”

The Spataros face the most serious charges: Corrupt organizations, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity, gambling devices, gambling and conspiracy to commit unlawful gambling.

All of the employees face an unlawful gambling charge.

Corso, Sacreponte, and Borgo also face a conspiracy charge.

Collings is accused of selling alcohol and drinking while tending bar.

They were arraigned Tuesday before District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr.

All were released on their own recognizance except for Armando and Sam Spataro, who were each released on unsecured $25,000 bonds, which only requires them to pay if they fail to appear.

Preliminary hearings are scheduled for May 18 before Pallone.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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