A possibly illegal Facebook gambling group — which once had over 2,000 members — has led to two Pennsylvania women now facing misdemeanor charges from state police, according to news reports. The operation reportedly paid the administrators over $81,000 in just three months.
Brittany Winings, 32, of Northern Cambria, and Tiffany Dupas, 26, of Hastings, are looking at charges that relate to illegal gambling devices, allowing gambling and inviting someone to gamble, WJAC reported on Thursday.
The pair allegedly received a total of $81,507 in payments between May and July 2019 from the operation, WJAC further reported based on state police statements.
In June, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Control alerted state police about the allegedly illegal Facebook lottery and gambling group, WJAC said.
A bureau investigation included screenshots and several complaints on the “BID WIN SAVE” Facebook group which apparently was created in May, the news report said. The group allegedly bid off prizes to players who paid for spots, the report adds.
There was a limited number of bidding spots in the group. The spots were filled, then a wheel was spun. The winning player was selected based on which spot was selected.
Winners Got Cash, Prizes
A wining player received either cash or such items as electronic goods, furniture, gift cards, kitchen supplies, heating oil, lottery tickets or tools, state police add.
State police said they scrutinized the Facebook group starting in July. Dupas and Winings were the only administrators for the site, WJAC added.
Dupas and Winings earned between $40 and $60 for every post, WJAC reported. The pair allegedly offered incentives for members of the Facebook group to recruit other members.
In a statement this week, Pennsylvania state police reminded residents that said small games of chance are illegal unless they are offered by a not-profit organization, WJAC said. Facebook users should verify a group is hosted by a not-profit before participating, state police further warned.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board also urged residents to contact the state police or the attorney general’s office upon seeing a suspicious Facebook group or if it appears the group is offered through a for-profit.
Games of Skill Raise Legal Questions in Pennsylvania
On a related topic, Pennsylvania skill gaming machines continue to spread across the Commonwealth, but their legality is once again being challenged in court this month.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is considering whether the skill-based gaming terminals constitute illegal gambling devices. Manufacturers argue the skill component exempts them from the state’s Gaming Act.
Opponents argue skill gaming machines are forms of illegal gambling.
In November, Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough opined that the skill gaming machines Pace-O-Matic (POM) of Pennsylvania LLC manufactures meets the definition of slots but stopped short of issuing a judgement that they violate the Gaming Act.
The judge said the Gaming Act is not applicable to unlicensed slot machines. State police, which had been seizing the devices on belief that they’re illegal, estimates there are 20,000 skill-based gambling terminals at bars, restaurants, and convenience stores. Courts ordered state police to stop their raids on the devices.
Currently, skill machines are unregulated, and profits are split between the establishment, manufacturer, and software producer.