By Mark Ackerman
DENVER (CBS4) – Denver police officers raided three “game of skill” parlors and arrested three people Tuesday afternoon.
The raids and arrests were part of an eleven-month investigation into illegal gambling orchestrated statewide by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, according to police. Similar raids have been carried out in Evans, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction.
Tuesday, Denver police officers seized equipment from the El Dorado Skill Games on Sheridan Blvd., American Pride Skill Games on East Dartmouth and the La Fortuna Skill Arcade on Federal Boulevard.
CBS4 was there as work crews filled a full-sized moving truck with thousands of dollarsvworth of seized gaming equipment. DPD has not released the names of the suspects who were arrested, or the charges they face, yet.
Tammy Garamova and her husband Bagarat Garamov own the three stores. Their business model is similar to an arcade, except instead of just putting money into a machine, you can also win money for being a ‘skilled player.’ The couple said it is using the same legal argument as Fantasy football, which carved out an exception to state gambling laws because fantasy sports required “skill” to win.
Thursday afternoon – just hours before the arrests were made- CBS4 asked Garamova if she thought she’d be charged with a crime.
“I believe the CBI is well aware that what we are doing is legal,” she said. “If it wasn’t legal we wouldn’t have another bill presented in our legislature.”
Garamova and her husband were both arrested less than two hours later. They face 47 counts of illegal gambling and operating slot machines.
A third person was also arrested and charged with illegal gambling and operating slot machines.
Just this week, the State House just passed HB 1234 which would make “game of skill” operations illegal like the three that were raided Thursday, illegal.
“There is the confusing part, they have seized our property, stating that our games are illegal gambling and therefore contraband.” Said Garamova. “Yet, they are down here at the Capitol working on legislation that would actually make what we do illegal.”
Last week the Garamov’s set up one of their games in the basement of the State Capitol to try to convince lawmakers that their games were more similar to video games than slot machines. A number of lawmakers agreed the machines didn’t seem like slot machines. The bill now goes to the State Senate.