The Oregon State Police, acting on behalf of Oregon Lottery

By Editorial Staff | Willamette Week | November 10, 2004

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From her store on Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just south of Hawthorne, Kim Pelett has seen some bad actors in the past 25 years--drug dealers, hookers and thieves, to name a few.

But Pelett, the owner of Classic Antiques Inc., says she's never experienced anything quite like the treatment she got this fall from this week's Rogue, the Oregon State Police, acting on behalf of Oregon Lottery. "The lottery are like gangsters who protect their turf by intimidating small business," says Pelett. "I don't think it's fair or right."

The tale begins in April, when Pelett bought a single Pachislo machine at a furnishing-industry trade show. Wildly popular in Japan, Pachislo machines are similar to slot machines except they neither accept nor dispense cash, working instead on tokens.

Pelett says the vendor told her the machines were legal in Oregon, which she says she confirmed on the Internet. After selling that first machine, Pelett quickly sold another 30, for prices between $199 and $599. She was so bullish on the machines that she ordered a container load--about 300 machines. Then disaster struck.

On July 22, Pelett arrived at her store to see flashing police lights in her parking lot. She says state police confiscated 10 machines worth about $3,500 and left a ticket for "illegal possession of simulated casino machines," a misdemeanor that carries a $5,000 fine.

Pelett, daughter of Walt Pelett of City Liquidators fame, hired ace criminal lawyer Stephen Houze, who got the charges dropped. In September, Deputy Multnomah County District Attorney Mark McDonnell ordered the machines returned. The state police, however, refused.

"They told us these machines are contraband and that they would file a motion to fight any return," Pelett says.

After consulting a civil lawyer, Pelett concluded that legal fees in such a battle could exceed the machines' value.

OSP Lt. Tim Steiner, who handles security for the Lottery, says a Pachislo machine is a slot machine, which makes it illegal, even if it isn't used for gambling. "Statute says they shall be seized," Steiner says. Pelett, he says, can't get them back until a judge okays it.

Until then, we're hiding our cards and dice, which, unlike Pelett's Pachislo machines, are regularly used for gambling.