Seized slot machines symptom

The recent seizure of dozens of illegal slot machines, at what appears to be an otherwise legitimate business, highlights the seedier underside of California’s billion-dollar gambling industry, according to authorities.

More than 80 illegal Japanese slot machines were seized at Ace Casino Rentals, in the 100 block of Starlite Street, in South San Francisco last month, following a three-month investigation, according to the Division of Gambling Control in the state Department of Justice. A court date has been set for next month in San Mateo County Superior Court, where Ace Casino operators Larry and Connie Hegre are expected to face charges of illegal possession of slot machines, authorities said.

“Slot machines are illegal in California,” said Marty Horan, special agent in charge with the state Division of Gambling Control. California law requires slot owners to register with the state and limits them to doing business with Indian casinos or in states where gambling is legal, Horan said.

Connie Hegre referred all questions to her attorney, who didn’t return a call for comment. Ace Casino, like other casino rental companies, offers to rent everything from blackjack and baccarat tables, to roulette and card dealers for parties. The company has been operating 25 years in the Bay Area and uses “‘play money,’ no real money and chips,” according to its Web site.

A similar-sized bust out of San Francisco occurred a couple of years ago when investigators encountered a vendor trying to hawk an illegal slot machine at a Cow Palace gun show, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state attorney general. Authorities tracked the man back to Palmdale, where they were able to seize about 80 slots, Barankin said.

Even larger seizures of slots have occurred in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Amador counties, but the largest, by far, was 1,500 machines in Los Angeles County in December, Barankin said.

While legal gambling — largely run by Indian tribes — raked in an about $5 billion in 2004 in California, estimating the size of the state’s illegal gambling problem has so far proved impossible to get a handle on. That is largely because those who sell and run illegal slot machines, basement card rooms and private casinos, do all they can to operate in the dark, Barankin said.

Since the Division of Gambling Control began operating in 2000, seizures have held steady, with the agency tallying at least one major bust of 100 to 300 machines each year, Barankin said. “These are machines that are not destined for legal use in Indian casinos, Las Vegas or Reno,” he said. “A lot of times they’re sold for personal entertainment in private homes or used to set up shadow, illegal gambling operations.”

ecarpenter@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Many famillies have supported keeping John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park free of car traffic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over future of JFK Drive heats up

Shamann Walton compares accessibilty issues to segregation, likens street closure to ‘1950s South’

Tara Hobson, center, principal at SF International High School, welcomes a student back on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD seniors get a chance to say goodbye to school in person

Deal to briefly return older students to school leaves many parents and teens dissatisfied

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City College union deal staves off layoffs, class cuts

One year agreement allows community college time to improve its finances

San Francisco Giants pitcher Logan Webb (62) faced down the Rangers Tuesday in a two-game sweep by the giants. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Webb posts career-high 10 strikeouts as Giants finish sweep of Rangers

The Texas Rangers arrived in San Francisco with one of the hottest… Continue reading

A Homeless Outreach Team member speaks with homeless people along Jones Street in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Breed proposes another street outreach team to divert calls away from police

San Francisco would launch a new street outreach team to respond to… Continue reading

Most Read