WEST CHESTER -- The commotion of police bursting into the Moose Lodge to seize illegal gambling machines wasn't enough to interrupt a game of indoor shuffleboard.
During a surprise bust about 8 p.m. Thursday, state police Liquor Control Enforcement and West Chester officers seized four illegal knock-off video slot machines and roughly $2,000.
During the raid in the first block of North Church Street, police asked roughly 15 patrons to leave the bar while officers loaded up the machines and interviewed employees and administrators.
Before leaving, one patron openly blamed Gov. Ed Rendell and the state's new casinos for the local bust.
"You can thank Ed Rendell for this ... He brings in casinos ... Then he starts cracking down on the Moose Lodge, the VFW," the man yelled.
Liquor Enforcement Sgt. William La Torre said his office received complaints regarding the gambling machines. The complaints prompted undercover officers to visit the bar, he said. Once the undercover officers observed customers using the machines, a raid was scheduled, he said.
"There are a lot of bars that have machines like these and people just need to tell us about them," La Torre said before the raid. "It will help us respond to them."
Customers gamble on the machines and then a bartender or employee will pay out their winnings, La Torre said. But, he said, the machines are "knock-offs," so the odds are actually in favor of the establishments.
"In essence, people pump money in and what they're winning back is so minimal," La Torre said.
And, police said, even if an establishment is not paying out winnings for their knock-off machines, just having the machines is illegal.
No one was arrested du
ring Thursday's raid. However, after investigators complete a financial audit, criminal charges may be filed, La Torre said.
"First, we like to see where the money is going, who's managing it, who's responsible for it," La Torre said.
If administrators knew about the activity, they could be charged, he said. Or charges could be filed against the establishment itself, he said.
Moose administrator Mike Meredith showed up during the raid. As investigators began seizing some of the bar's cash, Meredith asked if anything would be left behind for operation.
"I want to be able to open tomorrow," Meredith said.
La Torre said, "You gotta be able to operate legitimately."
Auditing the bar's finances could take weeks, police said. The bar was cleared to reopen after investigators left Thursday night.
Similarly, in June, LCE raided Phoenixville's Loyal Order of Moose Lodge for the second time in the past year.
After receiving an anonymous detailed letter, LCE revisited the Lodge on June 17, police said.
There, LCE seized two poker machines, two video slot machines and roughly $300 after seizing illegal poker machines from there last fall, said Enforcement Officer Frank Spera.
"Apparently, they put them back in when we left and kept on doing what they were doing," Spera said.
Illegal gambling can be reported anonymously at 215-726-6200.