A top official with the Massachusetts Lottery Commission said yesterday that it has indefinitely suspended lottery licenses for four establishments where video slot machines were seized last week by state police investigating possible illegal gambling.
The suspensions were issued yesterday, said Beth A. Bresnahan, director of communications for the state Lottery Commission. "We take this seriously," said Bresnahan.
Massachusetts State Police reported on Thursday that 38 machines were seized in bars, restaurants and markets in Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke a day earlier. While a few machines held no cash, others contained up to $10,000.
Business owners typically say the machines are for amusement only, but state police Sgt. Michael Imelio said many are manipulated to make payouts depending on the score. That constitutes illegal gambling.
No one has been charged in connection with the seized machines. Imelio said the probe is continuing, and that investigators may pursue criminal prosecutions through the office of Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett.
While Springfield and Chicopee had been targets of the illegal slot machine investigation before, Imelio said, "We had not targeted Holyoke as a city until this past week."
Sixteen search warrants were executed last week. The four businesses that had their lottery licenses suspended as a result of having machines removed by state police are: JP's Restaurant, 200 Whiting Farms Road, and the Sandcastle Lounge, 2201 Northampton St. in Holyoke; the Ale House, 536 Worthington St., in Springfield; and the Moose Family Center, 244 Fuller Road, in Chicopee.
"We know there's a lot out there," Imelio said. "We just want to try and level the playing field."
An investigation five years ago yielded criminal convictions for dozens of bar and restaurant owners, mostly in Springfield, whose establishments operated the illegal gambling devices.