SALEM — It was the large volume of car and foot traffic last fall at the Witch City VFW Post that first caught neighbors’ attention. It was particularly heavy on football weekends.
The traffic got so brisk, in fact, that calls were made to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission which, in turn, contacted Salem police to notify them that there might be illegal gambling taking place at the veterans club on Derby Street.
On Sunday, Dec. 22 — right before kickoff for National Football League games — a senior inspector from the ABCC entered the club undercover. It was quite a sight: tables with charts and stacks of football cards, and one man putting money into envelopes and then stuffing them into a backpack.
The inspector, Caroline Guarino-Wilichoski, said she watched as people entered the club with football cards and headed right for a man sitting at a table.
After watching the activity for a few minutes, the inspector went back outside and sent police into the club. They confiscated football betting cards and several thousand dollars in cash, among other items.
Last night, after a brief hearing at which the club offered no defense, the Licensing Board handed out a three-day suspension of the club’s liquor license for allowing an illegal activity on a licensed premise. Two days will be served this month, and one day will be held in abeyance and enforced only if a problem arises in the future.
“It’s very black and white,” post Cmdr. Kim Emerling said. “We were definitely in the wrong and want to get this thing resolved as quickly as possible.” Emerling is also director of veterans services in Salem.
Police said there was no indication that club officers were involved.
The illegal gambling operation was run by an associate member of the club who is not a veteran, police said. Police said they did not have enough evidence to bring criminal charges.