November 30, 2011, Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board presented District Attorney Seth Williams with a check for 150 thousand dollars today to investigate and prosecute illegal gambling activity in Philadelphia. The money is from the Board’s Local Law Enforcement Grant and will be used for the salaries of members of the District Attorney’s Gaming Control Task Force, which is operated under the office’s Special Investigations Unit. The staff of the Task Force will be dedicating a minimum of 32 hours a week toward pursuing illegal gambling in the city.
“This money will help us to continue to not only be tough but also smart on crime,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “The crimes associated with illegal gambling have grown over the past few years in Philadelphia, and it is extremely important that we track down those criminals and bring them to justice.”
“Since Pennsylvania casinos are legally generating millions of dollars per day in tax revenue for our citizens and employing more than 14,000 persons, it is important that law enforcement have the tools to thwart illegal gambling activities that may jeopardize that success,” said Gaming Control Board Chairman William H. Ryan, Jr.
The need to identify and prosecute illegal gambling in Philadelphia is an important issue not only for residents in the city but also for the entire state. The proceeds from legal gaming revenue have helped to reduce wage taxes in Philadelphia, and statewide property taxes as well. And while there are numerous economic benefits to the city from legal gaming, there are also increased criminal activities associated with gambling. The cost of investigating and prosecuting those crimes are substantial for both the Philadelphia Police Department and the DA’s office.
In December 2008, the District Attorney’s office used funds provided by the Gaming Control Board to create its Gaming Control Task Force, which consists of a prosecutor, detective, and law clerk. The Task Force’s mission was focused on investigating and prosecuting operators of unlawful video and electronic gaming devices. While the funds from that 2008 grant have been exhausted, the Task Force remains in place and has since evolved to encompass all illegal gambling in Philadelphia. Members of the task force have worked both independently and in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute a variety of illegal gaming operations resulting in dozens of arrests. Most of those arrests have culminated in convictions or entry into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition agreements for first time offenders. The Task Force has also recovered a variety of illegal gambling equipment, including video poker machines, mechanical slots, and computer equipment from sports betting operations.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board began presenting the Local Law Enforcement Grant in 2004 with the original grant money totaling a maximum of 250 thousand dollars. The purpose of the grant is to enable local law enforcement agencies to “investigate violations of and enforce laws relating to unlawful gambling in the Commonwealth.” Eligible applicants for the grant monies are Police Departments, District Attorney’s Offices, Pennsylvania State Police, and multi-jurisdictional law enforcement groups composed of members of any of the previous agencies. As a result of legislative budget cut-backs the amount of the grant was changed in 2010 to a maximum of 150 thousand dollars. This is the second Law Enforcement grant presented to the DA’s office from the Gaming Control Board. The first one in 2008 was for 250 thousand dollars and the money was used for salaries, overtime, benefits, investigative travel and training.