Pa. Man Arrested for Running Illegal Gaming Out of More Than 30 Bars

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A Pennsylvania man found an interesting side job to prop up his vending machine business and was arrested for it.

Tony Zenner was arrested by police after a lengthy investigation of his vending machine business. They say he netted $7 million in profits from more than 100 machines in more than 30 bars in four different counties over the last 10 years.

Vending Company

Vending Company

Zenner has run a vending company for at least two decades. However, in the time he has owned Zenner Vending, which caters to bars in the southern part of the state, bar ownership and the type of vending machines desired by the bars has changed. In the past, Zenner would most likely have been able to make his money on cigarette machines or other bar novelty games. But, times have changed, and Zenner needed additional income. In addition to bars, Zenner Vending also had the authority to place vending machines in clubs and restaurants. In each case where authorities allege illegal gambling, Zenner had a license, legitimately paid for, to place vending machines in the location.

The Investigation

The nearly three dozen charges Zenner is facing come from an investigation that has lasted more than two years. Zenner is currently charged with corrupt organization, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, and illegal gaming devices in businesses. The investigation, which was begun because of a complaint by a bar owner, began in 2016 when state troopers began surveillance of Zenner’s operation.

The illegal gaming machines were first placed in venues in 2006. The bars and clubs that had the machines paid players in cash when they won credits. The bars were allowed to keep a percentage of the profits, usually 50 percent, and paid the rest to Zenner. Police estimate that Zenner was making nearly $15,000 a week through illegal gambling proceeds.

Although Zenner does have legal vending machines as well, such as traditional vending machines with snacks and drinks, pool tables, and dartboards, the majority of his profits came from the 143 illegal gaming machines, which allowed patrons to gamble on video poker.

The Aftermath

Zenner Vending has been closed by the state after Zenner’s arrest, so investigators can go through his finances. So far, the state has seized all the video poker machines Zenner owned. The state also seized more than $80,000 in cash from Zenner’s warehouse and car and froze more than $60,000 in five different bank accounts investigators say are controlled by the owner or the company.

Poker machines

Zenner has retained an attorney. He is out on $30,000 bail and must report to court for a hearing in August. If convicted on all charges, Zenner could face up to 30 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Ironically, had Zenner waited a decade before beginning his enterprise, his video poker machine business would most likely have become legal. Pennsylvania is currently in the process of moving toward a very liberal gaming policy. It has voted to legalize sports gaming and many other forms of gaming machines, as well as online gaming, in the state. The new laws that would be put into effect in the state would have permitted Zenner to apply for a license, and, therefore, he would have been allowed to offer legal gaming machines to the bars and restaurants he served in his vending business. Pennsylvania officials estimate that gaming companies and the state will rake in hundreds of millions of dollars with the increase in machines, online gaming, sports betting, and lottery gaming online. The additional revenue is expected to prop up the state’s economy, which has had difficulties since before the Great Recession 10 years ago.

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A Massachusetts native, blogger Angeline Everett grew up in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and earned a degree in casino management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After graduating, Angeline moved to Atlantic City where she joined the young team at the Borgata Casino as a compliance representative, while blogging on the side. After a few years in the back office, Angeline moved to the floor to work first at a casual poker dealer and later casual poker floor supervisor. Fascinated with games of chance since she was a child, Angeline currently divides her time between blogging and work on her first book.