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The Year In Michigan Illegal Gambling Busts, 2023

No regulator flexes its muscles on illicit operators like the state’s gaming board




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Few, if any, state regulators pursue illegal gambling operations with the vim and vigor of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which has a special sub-unit of agents devoted to the task of shuttering such dens of iniquity.

Hence, nary a month goes without word of the MGCB busting up an illicit storefront casino, as was proven again by the robust swarm of enforcement activity like the following from 2023.

January brought the sentencing of Joshua Thatcher, who received 12 months of probation after he pled guilty to operating an illegal poker room in the Upper Peninsula community of Marquette. When he opened 906 Poker Social in April 2021, Thatcher believed he was running a legal business, but it turned out he’d misinterpreted the law. As part of his plea, he forfeited $13,050 in cash and six poker tables to the state, as well as money held in bank accounts associated with the illicit enterprise.

In February, former Flint Police Chief Bradford Barksdale pled no contest to one count of gambling violations for his role in operating an illegal online casino parlor at the West Point Arcade, where winnings were paid in gift cards. Meanwhile, just west of Lansing in Delta Township, law enforcement authorities seized 36 illegal gambling machines and more than $23,000 in cash from the Cozy Barcade, which was brought to their attention by a series of anonymous tips.

Showing that a penchant for criminal activity doesn’t necessarily fade with age, 69-year-old Connie Durham — aka the Gamblin’ Granny of Ypsilanti — was sentenced to a year’s probation and 50 hours of community service in April for running an illegal computerized gambling operation out of an Internet cafe called Stony Creek. A pair of her accomplices were over the age of 66, and those two were fined and ordered to perform community service in November for “maintaining a gambling house for gain.”

June saw MGCB agents confiscate an illegal coin pusher machine from a Sunoco gas station in Belleville, a lakefront hamlet nestled between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

August brought the seizure of 50 gambling devices from the Flint Arcade in the city of the same name. That same location — then known as the Cellular Vault — had been raided almost exactly a year prior, when the MGCB seized 43 computers used for gambling and $2,500 in ill-gotten gains.

The action stayed in the Flint area in September, when five individuals were arraigned on a total of 31 charges for running a pair of illegal gambling parlors. In an April raid, law enforcement had seized 100 illegal gambling devices, 62 gift cards of varying denominations, and $29,204 in cash from the State Road Spot in Davison and the Bristol Spot in Burton.

In October, a whopping $182,430 worth of gift cards was confiscated as part of a raid on the PlayStation Bar and Grill in Bridgeport Township, where six slot-like machines and 11 computers allowed patrons to gamble illegally. If you think these contraptions will wind up being used elsewhere, think again: In September, the MGCB made a big show of destroying several of the illegal gambling machines it had seized in a Detroit junkyard.

“The destruction of these machines sends a clear message that the Michigan Gaming Control Board is not playing games when it comes to upholding the highest standards of gaming regulation and enforcement,” MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams said at the time.

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