By Mark Ackerman
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Are they video arcades or illegal gambling operations? Police have raided “game of skill” parlors up and down Colorado’s Front Range.
Now business owners are speaking out and telling CBS4 their side of the story.
On October 4, Denver police raided the American Pride skilled gaming facility on Dartmouth Avenue and its sister store, La Fortuna on Federal Boulevard, seizing thousands of dollars in cash and machines as part of an illegal gambling investigation.
Similar businesses were recently raided in Evans, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
Tammy Garamova and her husband, Bagrat, own the Denver locations that were raided and say their business model is perfectly legal – patrons play video games, and if they do well, they win cash prizes.
“We are not running a casino,” said Garamova, “These are games of skill. This is no different than Dave and Busters or Chuck E Cheese,” where people earn points for playing games and redeem them for prizes.
She says her establishments offer video games, which are ‘games of skill,’ not slot machines, which are ‘games of chance.’
She contends games of skill are exempt from Colorado’s gambling laws, which is precisely the same argument the daily fantasy sports industry made to the Colorado legislature in 2016.
DFS websites like Fan Duel and Draft Kings argued that it takes skill to pick players and set a fantasy football line up – which is fundamentally different than gambling.
Matt Kalish, co-founder of Draft Kings, says his company continues to work with state legislatures to legalize and legitimize the fantasy sports industry, which now operates in 41 states.
“We are trying to get more regulations passed because we believe it protects consumers,” Kalish said.
Now other skilled gaming operators are banding together in hopes the legislature will listen to them.
“Arcade games are not games of chance. You are using a joystick and a button and these are games of skill,” said Chris Hawes, Executive Director of the newly formed Colorado Skill Games and Entertainment Association.
“We are scared,” said Garamova, who re-opened her American Pride facility while she waits to find out if she will face criminal charges.
Her third location in Englewood was scheduled to open last week, but after the raids in Denver, her license has been put on hold.
“We realize the deck is stacked against us,” she said.
The Denver police would not comment on the raids saying it is still an open investigation.