ABC to Idaho Bars: No Deal 

"We received various complaints of illegal gambling within licensed establishments."

They've been warned.

Cautioning that he will "be actively pursuing investigation," Lt. Russell Wheatley, chief of the Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau, has fired a warning shot across the bow of Gem State restaurants and taverns that have added a little too much variety to their surroundings.

"We have received various complaints of illegal gambling activities within licensed establishments," wrote Wheatley in a June 14 letter to each licensee.

Wheatley said that just because his department had been understaffed lately doesn't mean that the law changed.

"The Idaho State Police regards any illegal gambling or uses of illegal video gaming devices or casino activities or activities that simulate of [sic] any form of casino gambling as violations of the laws of the state and are not permitted," wrote Wheatley.

He told Boise Weekly that, "It became almost urban myth" that licensees hadn't gotten into trouble for 10 or 12 years, in spite of the fact that there were illegal slot machines at some locations.

"They're flat-out illegal," Wheatley told BW. "We have establishments that have decided to have slot machines. We call them 8-liners in our world."

Wheatley said his crew isn't going to be pulling anyone's license--yet.

"But this is a notification that we're getting serious about this, and at some point, it's going to come down on them. Right now, we're looking for voluntary compliance rather than go that route."

And it's not just slot machines, or 8-liners, that have become a problem.

"We're having a heck of a time with card games as well," he said. "Poker has really taken off since they start putting it on TV. Well, that's completely fine. But where people get in trouble is when they gamble. And in a licensed establishment, well alcohol licensees are held to another standard. That's Idaho statute."

Idaho Code 23-928 prohibits any licensee that sells liquor by the drink from gaming, including any premises that are connected to the licensed location by a door or hallway. Operators of bingo or pari-mutuel licensees are exempt.

"For those that decide they don't want to go that route, we'll institute procedures, either administratively or criminally," Wheatley told BW.

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