Anchorage police suspected illegal gambling at arcade but closed the case

Two complaints filed against arcade last year, both apparently closed with no legal action taken
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 7:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two complaints surrounding alleged illegal gambling filed with the Anchorage Police Department more than a year ago were closed, the police records division confirmed, apparently with no follow-up investigation.

The complaints were filed against West Side Arcade, formerly located in a strip mall at 3600 Minnesota Blvd. in Anchorage. Last February, Alaska News Source received tips from former patrons of the business, claiming it was a front for illegal gambling.

Shortly afterwards, our station’s hidden cameras also captured what appeared to be illegal gambling activities, with patrons being paid cash after scoring high on arcade-style video games. Alaska’s gambling ban states that’s apparently illegal, since an amusement device is considered legal if it “confers only an immediate right of replay, not exchangeable for something of value.” Allowable items would include tickets or credits that can be redeemed, but not cash payouts.

This past April, Alaska’s News Source submitted an open records request, which recently yielded two reports of alleged illegal gambling that were filed with the Anchorage Police Department more than a year ago. Records show both investigations were closed without any apparent legal action being taken.

A concerned mother says her family was dining at a restaurant adjacent to the arcade when she realized it didn’t appear to be family-friendly.

“I was concerned because I wouldn’t want my kids just wandering into an arcade like that,” she said.

The woman’s first name is Sara, however, she requested her full identity remain anonymous. Sarah notified the Anchorage Police Department about suspected gambling at West Side Arcade, via an online report she submitted on June 5, 2011.

“I filed a report and then, never heard anything at all,” she said.

Since then the case she filed has been closed, and it appears no action was taken. Alaska News Source found Anchorage police officers also suspected illegal gambling at West Side Arcade and opened an investigation on March 16, 2021. In that case’s narrative, an officer reported, “Sgt. Fuches...informed me that they believed the business to be an illegal gambling/gaming location and they were going to apply for a search warrant.”

The report goes on to state, “it did appear as though there were lit up horizontal slots at each seat, but there was no money sign or anything indicating that is where you put money into it, other than the hole was roughly the size of a dollar bill.”

Like Sarah’s report, that case was closed with no legal action taken and apparently no further follow-up.

Sarah says she was both relieved and wary when she finally saw the issue featured on the news.

“I thought, ‘finally somebody’s doing something about it.’ ... I was really glad but I’m sure, you know, they’re going to open up somewhere else,” she said.

Shortly after Alaska’s News Source aired a report about allegations of illegal gambling this past March, West Side Arcade shut down. Some former patrons report that other gambling spots have since popped up throughout Anchorage.

Clerks at the Anchorage Police Department’s Records Division say they have no information as to why the cases were closed, instead directing questions to the officer who filed one of the reports. So far, he has not returned calls.