Colorado lawmakers outlawed the use of so-called table fish video games outside of casinos. However, business owners who offered those games to the public before the law was created have endured an exhausting legal battle.
One such business owner, Richard Olguin, had all three of his arcades raided by police on March 15, 2017. Pueblo Police Captain Jeff Bodmer explained that officers obtained search warrants for the $killz Arcade and TableZ businesses after conducting an undercover investigation. The targets were video games which dispense tickets to customers who then traded them for cash.
"We were receiving information that more and more of these locations were opening up with these, I’ll just call them fish games, which are slot machines and it’s gambling."
Eight months passed before Olguin ever arrested or charged. In July of 2017, he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police department for unreasonable search and seizure. When he was arrested in November, District Attorney Jeff Chostner threw the book at him charging him Olguin with 25 criminal counts of illegal gambling, including 11 felonies.
"It was a nightmare, frankly, for Mr. Olguin," explained defense attorney Dan Jacobs. "His stuff is taken, he’s left in limbo, he says I’ve been unjustly persecuted here. So, I’m going to file a lawsuit. It wasn’t until he filed the lawsuit that when he was charged with crimes."
Chostner’s office dropped all charges last month after the Governor signed House Bill 1234 into law. The legislation reclassifies the games as slot machines. Lawmakers added a provision granting immunity to business owners like Olguin provided they give documentation to the District Attorney showing that they have sold the equipment out of state.
Jacobs said the police didn’t want to return the games to Olguin. In fact, prosecutors applied for and received a court order demanding the release of the property. It still took the police department until last week to return the games.
"There might be civil suits for people that want to say hey, we were persecuted for x amount of time and we demand that we get compensated," Jacobs said. "If I were the City of Pueblo I might be a little bit worried about that."
Bodmer said his biggest concern was that other people would follow Olguin’s example and open their own arcades causing illegal gambling to spread.
"I really had no interest in putting the people running those businesses in prison," he said. "We have heroin dealers and people terrorizing the community who deserve to be in prison."
Olguin dropped his lawsuit after he was arrested in November. However, his attorneys asked the judge to dismiss without prejudice, meaning it could come back up again. The judge granted that motion.