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Agents raid Ottawa Legion post for 2nd time

OTTAWA, O. - For the second time this year, the American Legion post has been raided by state liquor control agents in response to complaints of illegal gambling.

Agents from the Ohio Department of Public Safety entered American Legion Post 63 Wednesday evening and seized more than $66,000 in cash and gaming equipment during a Thanksgiving-eve event at the club.

According to the department, agents responding to complaints about illegal gaming saw people gambling on slot machines, dice games, and tip tickets. The agents seized 21 slot machines, $3,783.75 in cash, craps tables, dice wheels, tip tickets, and gambling records, the department said in a news release.

The post was issued two citations, including six charges of illegal gambling and one charge of hindering or obstructing an inspection.

Department of Public Safety officials said they plan to consult with Putnam County Prosecutor Daniel Gerschutz about possible criminal charges against the club and its officers. Mr. Gerschutz could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A member answering the phone at the American Legion post yesterday said no officers would comment on the raid.

Another member of the post, Francis X. Hermiller, said the club traditionally has an event the night before Thanksgiving to raise money for charity.

“We've had a Thanksgiving Day-eve fund-raiser for years for the benefit of our children's and youth's activities,” Mr. Hermiller said yesterday. “It was our big fund-raiser for that purpose.”

He said he had “no first-hand knowledge” of gambling at the post, and that members are upset by the raid.

“It seems there's something certainly wrong, because this is the second time this year,” Mr. Hermiller said.

On Jan. 29, liquor control agents raided the post and seized $8,546, betting slips, seven video gambling machines worth an estimated $21,000, and other gaming devices. The club was issued three liquor citations that include seven gambling charges and the sale of alcohol to nonmembers.

After a June hearing before the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, the club's permit to serve alcohol was revoked July 18, but an attorney for the post sought a stay of the order in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in Columbus.

The stay was granted, and the post had been operating under it since, the state said, though the latest charges could change that.

The raid in Ottawa was the third such action in northwest Ohio in a little more than a month.

On Oct. 16, agents seized gambling machines, tip tickets, records, and more than $15,000 in alleged gaming proceeds from American Legion Post 300 in Napoleon. And on Oct. 12, a raid at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2772 in Columbus Grove netted tip tickets, six electronic gambling machines, records, prizes, and $4,706 in alleged gaming proceeds.

Both clubs face multiple charges of permitting and/or allowing illegal gambling and hearings before the Liquor Control Commission.

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