Police hope to shut down seven alleged illegal gambling operations where officers executed search warrants simultaneously Thursday after complaints from citizens, METRICH Lt. Joy Stortz said.

“They’re illegal,” said Stortz, the METRICH Enforcement Unit commander. “Ohio has legal casinos. The attorney general’s office has not said these little mom-and-pop places are legal in Ohio. They’re not approved through the state.”

“If they want to give out gifts under $10, that’s approved, but that’s not what they’re doing,” she said. “They’re giving away cash payouts or gift cards.”

METRICH assisted by the Mansfield Police Department, Ontario Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Ashland METRICH, Ashland Police Department, Ashland County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation served the search warrants.

Stortz said after receiving citizen complaints a lengthy investigation was conducted which revealed the businesses were in fact operating illegally by giving large cash payouts to their customers.

Charges are pending on employees and business owners, a press release said.

The businesses listed in the release are:
Games 4 U, 1621 W. Fourth St., Ontario.
Sons of Herman, 416 Orange St., Mansfield.
Sons of Italy, 144 W. Third St., Mansfield.
Amvets, 1100 W. Fourth St., Mansfield.
Lucky Spot Skill Games, 2000 W. 4th St.,Ontario.
Skills & Thrills, 405 Ashland Road, Mansfield.
Buckeye Room Skill Games, 1060 Park Ave. West, Mansfield

During the searches, authorities claimed they seized items consistent with illegal gambling, banking documents and $21,266 in cash.

“To me, that’s a lot of money,” Stortz said. “I don’t know if some of them went to the bank that day. We didn’t monitor too close when they made deposits.”

Based on the amount seized, Stortz said she would assume some patrons are losing a substantial amount of money.

The METRICH commander said Thursday’s raids were the third since she has been there.

“We do what we can do,” Stortz said. “Some of them shut down. Some of them continue to do business, so they must be making money.”

Employees at the Sons of Herman, Sons of Italy and the Amvets declined to comment.

Originally published in the News Journal on February 19, 2016.