Local police cautious about gambling in Verona


?We have four young men who died as a result of gambling,? Police Chief Bernie Coughlin said, referring to the case in which Meng-Ju Wu allegedly shot three men in a downtown Verona apartment and later took his own life just before his case was to go to trial.

With this history, Verona police were leery when the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation executed a search warrant last Wednesday on a residence in the 100 block of Paoli Street seeking evidence of gambling activity. Two Verona police officers stood by while the residence was secured, but once it was determined the resident would be cooperative, the search was handled by the state officials.

According to Verona Police Lieutenant Bernie Albright, the state investigators were searching for evidence of ?commercial gambling,? and a large body of potential evidence was removed from the residence.

The name of the resident has not been released pending charges being filed. He was reportedly taken to the Dane County Public Safety Building where he was booked and released. Albright said the Dane County District Attorney?s office is determining what, if any charges will be brought against the man.

Albright said the man was allegedly acting as a bookie, primarily taking wagers on football games. The man allegedly left parlay sheets in several taverns as part of his activities.

Albright also said the Verona Police have seized the man?s vehicle under the assumption that it was used in the commission of a crime. The department intends to make the seizure permanent depending on the nature of charges filed.

The issue surrounding gambling is part of a larger problem authorities in Verona are wrestling with, according to Verona Police Chief Bernie Coughlin. With the Wu case still fresh in their minds, Verona police are not anxious to see another gambling situation turn into bigger news.

?Just about every bar you walk into, you find some type of football pool,? Coughlin said, noting that his department isn?t concerned with these types of activities. ?If it gets too big or out of hand, that?s when it will get investigated.?

One of the ways the gambling issue is challenging Verona police is the recent rise in the popularity of Texas Hold?em Poker. Coughlin said his department has received a number of requests from local groups and establishments to hold Texas Hold?em tournaments. In some cases, the games are being played illegally, a fact that caused Coughlin to send a letter to several businesses in the community.

According to material Coughlin sends out with his letter, ?Poker tournaments in which the participants pay a fee to enter for the opportunity to win money or prizes are illegal under two different Wisconsin statutes.? This law covers both a fee to enter the tournament as well as a required minimum food or beverage purchase to participate.

?Even if no purchase is required to enter the tournament, other factors may be enough consideration to make the tournament illegal,? Coughlin?s letter states.

Penalties for Bandarq gambling range from a misdemeanor for making a bet to felony commercial gambling for operating a gambling place. The misdemeanor comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to nine months in jail. Class E felony charges can result in as much as a $50,000 fine and up to 15 years imprisonment.

Coughlin?s letter does add that ?at this time, it is unclear whether poker tournaments that do not involve consideration (that is, participants do not have to pay to enter) are illegal.? If in doubt, Coughlin advises checking with the district attorney?s office.