State and local law enforcement haul out Pot-o-Gold gambling machines following a raid at Sky Lake, a pay fishing lake in Chesapeake, Wednesday
State and local law enforcement haul out Pot-o-Gold gambling machines following a raid at Sky Lake, a pay fishing lake in Chesapeake, Wednesday

Archived Story

Video gaming machines seized

Published 6:22pm Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CHESAPEAKE — One by one, gaming machines were rolled out of Sky Lake on moving dollies and into a U-Haul truck Wednesday afternoon after law enforcement executed a search warrant on the business for alleged illegal gambling activity.

Authorities with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Charitable Law Section assisted investigators with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office following a six-month long investigation into the business.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless said there were about 20 video gaming machines in a back room of the restaurant at Sky Lake, a pay fishing lake located at 1543 County Road 32, Chesapeake. Former Chesapeake Police Officer Tracy Ellis owns the business.

My office has been receiving complaints for the past couple of years about gambling activities going on here,” Lawless said. “We reached out to the Ohio Attorney General’s office and BCI and discovered they had also been receiving complaints and were in the process of investigating this place already. We combined efforts in our investigation, which has been going on for about six months.”

In addition to the machines, cash was taken as evidence and will be presented to prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson to determine if charges will be filed.

Ellis was not arrested, as the investigation remains ongoing.

The business owner said the machines had been at Sky Lake since it opened.

“They’ve been in there for 20 years,” Ellis said. “It’s nothing that started yesterday.”

Ellis also said he thought he was operating the machines in accordance with state law.

“I’ve changed with the law,” he said. “It used to be that you couldn’t pay money. You had to give gift certificates. We did that for a while. When the state went to $10, I changed the machines to payout $10. I thought I was in accordance with the law. I might not be. I might be wrong. If I am I have to pay the consequences. And I’ll stand by that. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I’m guilty, I’m guilty.”

Ellis said he ran his business on the up and up and no one under 21 was allowed in the gaming room.

“You’ve got to be 21 years old before you lose $10,” he said. “You lose $10, you go on down the road. It’s something just to pass the time. People go back there and sit and have a burger and chat. If you want to lose money, go over to West Virginia and play those machines. You can lose $10,000 in an hour in those machines. These are not like that.”

Lawless said some of the complaints his office receive were from former patrons who claimed they lost more than just $10.

“They got wrapped up in the gambling addiction and they ended up losing their house,” Lawless said of one whistle-blower. “One gentleman who called me, his mother would come here. ‘Her monthly check is going to that establishment and she can’t even make her house payment now.’ Many families are affected by the gambling. Certainly if this activity is illegal we want to put a stop to it.”

My office has been receiving complaints for the past couple of years about gambling activities going on here,” Lawless said. “We reached out to the Ohio Attorney General’s office and BCI and discovered they had also been receiving complaints and were in the process of investigating this place already. We combined efforts in our investigation, which has been going on for about six months.”

In addition to the machines, cash was taken as evidence and will be presented to prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson to determine if charges will be filed.

Ellis was not arrested, as the investigation remains ongoing.

The business owner said the machines had been at Sky Lake since it opened.

“They’ve been in there for 20 years,” Ellis said. “It’s nothing that started yesterday.”

Ellis also said he thought he was operating the machines in accordance with state law.

“I’ve changed with the law,” he said. “It used to be that you couldn’t pay money. You had to give gift certificates. We did that for a while. When the state went to $10, I changed the machines to pay out $10. I thought I was in accordance with the law. I might not be. I might be wrong. If I am, I have to pay the consequences. And I’ll stand by that. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I’m guilty, I’m guilty.”

Ellis said he ran his business on the up and up and no one under 21 was allowed in the gaming room.

“You’ve got to be 21 years old before you lose $10,” he said. “You lose $10, you go on down the road. It’s something just to pass the time. People go back there and sit and have a burger and chat. If you want to lose money, go over to West Virginia and play those machines. You can lose $10,000 in an hour in those machines. These are not like that.”

Lawless said some of the complaints his office receive were from former patrons who claimed they lost more than just $10.

“They got wrapped up in the gambling addiction and they ended up losing their house,” Lawless said of one whistle-blower. “One gentleman who called me, his mother would come here. Her monthly check is going to that establishment and she can’t even make her house payment now. Many families are affected by the gambling. Certainly if this activity is illegal, we want to put a stop to it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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