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Leechburg Moose Lodge forfeits electronic gambling devices

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 1:31 a.m.

The Leechburg Moose Lodge will not try to get back computers and other equipment state police say were being used for gambling.

State police did not cite or fine Leechburg Moose Lodge 102 for violating its liquor license when it was found to be using a system in which patrons gambled using purchased phone cards.

The lodge officers claimed a vendor led them to believe the system was legal and were given “the benefit of the doubt,” said state police Capt. Mark Crossan, who works in the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

The computers were seized when state police conducted a routine inspection of the lodge in February. They will be forfeited to the state Attorney General's Office if no claim is filed in Armstrong County Court by Nov. 22.

Eleven Moose lodges in 11 counties and a firemen's club in Cambria County were found to be using the same system this year, Crossan said.

The only other case in the four-county area was Moose Lodge 236 in Irwin, which was cited for violating its liquor license in early September.

The computers at the Irwin lodge were not seized because they had been removed after they were seen there, Crossan said.

Fred Ulmer II, the administrator of the Leechburg Moose Lodge, said a vendor led them to believe a judge had ruled that the system, which he called “sweepstakes machines,” was legal.

“They were all over the state,” Ulmer said. “We had a letter from a judge who ruled them legal. The state police determined they were illegal. We believe them.”

Ulmer said the lodge cooperated with state police and handed everything over.

“They were very nice with us,” he said.

Crossan said the system is called Tel Connect, and is often found in what are called Internet cafes.

The state Legislature in 2002 amended the gambling statute of the state crime's code to make the machines illegal.

The outcomes of the games, sometimes called “simulated gambling,” are predetermined and not left to chance.

“Obviously, most people lose,” Crossan said.

Confusion may stem from an injunction that was filed, but the law was later upheld, Crossan said.

The Leechburg Moose Lodge has been cited and fined for gambling offenses before. The club was cited twice in 1995 and once each in 1996 and 2000 for having gambling machines; it was also cited for running sports polls in 1996 and 2012.

It was cited in 2011 for not properly keeping records on small games of chance, according to Crossan and Liquor Control Board records.

Fines for those citations ranged from $300 to $1,000, and totaled $4,350.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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