Idaho State Police investigators said they seized about 50 illegal gambling machines in a raid of 13 bars across the state, most of them in the Boise region.
The search warrants and seizures came after a yearlong investigation. Officials said they were tipped off by family members of gamblers who allegedly frequented the bars.
The machines were not casino-style slot machines, officials said. Instead, players could rack up credits or points, and bar employees allegedly would pay them money based on the number of credits accrued.
"In several cases we found extensive records which indicated who had been playing the machines, how much was being taken in and how much paid out," Lt. Bob Clements of the Idaho State Patrol's Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau said in a prepared statement. "Suffice it to say the take for these establishments was considerable and of course all of it was tax-free income for the operators of the machines."
Clements said each machine brought in as much as $2,000 a week -- quickly paying for the per-machine cost of between $2,000 and $5,000.
None of the bar owners were arrested in the raids, but Idaho State Police officials said several people face misdemeanor or felony charges. State law prohibits gambling except for the electronic gambling machines in reservation casinos and the state lottery.
Ten of the raided bars were in the greater Boise area. Three were in Coeur d'Alene, where 15 machines were seized. The investigation continues, officials said.
"We suspect this problem goes much deeper than those locations we discovered in this initial effort," Clements said, "and we will be continuing to pursue leads and seek out locations where illegal gambling activity is occurring."
Mr. Lucky's Bar in Garden City was one of the raided establishments. Owner Dave Parrie said his bar was well within the law and made about $300 a week on his four confiscated electronic machines.
Parrie said it was legal because patrons did not make money on the games.
"If you pay out on them, then you're paying people for gambling," Parrie told Boise station KTVB. "There's a gray area there. We've given drinks out and things like that for people playing. And tokens and things like that, but this isn't a casino."