Austrian authorities seize a “record” 18 gambling machines in illegal den

| By Marese O'Hagan
The owners of an illegal gambling den in the district of Ottakring in Vienna could face a fine of up to €1m, after financial police seized a record 18 gaming machines at the scene.

Eight members of the financial police force, with the support of 16 members of the Vienna State Office of Criminal Investigation, were called to inspect the den after several reports alleging suspicious behaviour at the scene, and obscured windows in the premises.

Upon entering the bar, which was located beneath a restaurant, police discovered 18 gambling machines, a deposit and withdrawal machine, and four individuals who were said not to be complying with novel coronavirus (Covid-19) measures in place for the city.

The authorities seized the gambling machines and discovered an envelope containing €1,000, which the bar’s supervisor claimed he had received for three weeks of work.

In addition to his supervision of the den, the bar’s supervisor was also found to be receiving emergency state aid at the time, meaning that he should not have been receiving additional funds.

“We are observing that, especially in Vienna, mafia-like structures with illegal gambling dens have recently spread again,” said Finance Minister Gernot Blümel.

“Not only are all duties and taxes evaded, but illegal gambling takes place in an uncontrolled manner and without player protection on often manipulated machines.

The bar was closed by police, who later discovered three more illegal gambling machines in a bar nearby.

The perpetrators face charges of up to €60,000 per gaming device, meaning that they could pay up to €1m, plus an additional fine of over €1m for repeated offences.

“The high pressure of control by the financial police and successful operations like that of last night are putting the criminal operators under massive pressure,” added Blümel.

This raid is one of several this year, with the financial police shutting down two illegal operations in February.

In January, the Austrian government warned of the rise in illegal gambling machine seizures.

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