, Salem, MA

June 12, 2013

Arcades shut down amid probe by police

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — DANVERS — Police abruptly shut down the Lucky 7 arcade that opened last year in Liberty Tree Mall and a second one in Gloucester that is owned by the same family.

“They’re saying illegal gambling, but they’re not telling us a whole lot,” said Janine Parisi, who runs the Rogers Street arcade in Gloucester that is owned by her mother, Rosalie.

Parisi denied any charges of wrongdoing and illegal gambling yesterday afternoon.

“We are all stunned. We’ve been in business for seven years,” she said. “We have complied to every law. We have had people come in from other businesses telling us we are the only ones that do it legally.”

Owner Rosalie Parisi told a reporter last September that while slots games in a casino involve pushing a button and then learning if you won or lost when the machine stops, the games at her business require that the player press a button to stop the machine to try to win, which, she said, requires a skill. The owners said they believe that the coin-operated machines, which resemble slot machines, are similar to arcade games at places like bowling alleys or Chuck E. Cheese.

“We’re pretty shook up right now,” Janine Parisi said. “This is our life; this is our business. Our whole family works for this.”

Gloucester police were assisting in the investigation yesterday afternoon but directed questions to Danvers police who declined to comment. State police, too, declined to comment, directing inquiries to the Attorney General’s office.

Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said the investigation is ongoing and he could not comment on what is taking place at the two businesses. Puffer said police had made no arrests in the case as of last night.

The shutdown was the latest in a series of investigations by the Attorney General’s office into similar businesses. Since 2010, Coakley’s office has shut down a number of Internet cafes that allow patrons to purchase Internet time, primarily to use that time for gambling on electronic screens.

The Lucky 7 arcades allow customers to play a variety of games, and they pay off in prizes, such as dinners at local restaurants and local business gift cards, instead of cash.

Last August, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that created a new crime “for conducting or promoting an unauthorized sweepstakes that is executed through the use of the display of an electronic machine,” according to statements from the Attorney General’s office. Those charges would carry a penalty of up to $250,000 per machine and/or a state prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Police removed “quite a bit of stuff” from the Gloucester location Monday afternoon as officers raided the arcade, Janine Parisi said.

“We’re just stunned, and as far as I know, the community loves us,” Parisi said. “This is going to hurt the community if we don’t get it back.”

Courts reporter Julie Manganis contributed to this story.