Denver Skill Games Arcade Police Raid Lands Colorado Industry President in Slammer

Posted on: April 8, 2018, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: April 7, 2018, 10:30h.

Are skill games harmless, or are they gambling, simply camouflaged? That’s the question being posed in the wake of police raids which landed a Denver, Colorado resident Tammy Garamova in jail, accused of involvement in an illegal gambling operation.

“Game of Skill” Parlors under the legal microscope.
Are “game of skill” parlors that host arcade games that award cash prizes illegal? Colorado Skill Games and Entertainment Association President Tammy Garamova argues not, but cops arrested her anyway. (Image : CBS Denver)

Garamova is the president of the newly formed Colorado Skill Games and Entertainment Association (CSGEA). She also owns three “game of skill” parlors which were recently raided by Denver police. Her cash and equipment seized, Garamova was then arrested and spent five days in jail, according to Denver’s 9 News.

She says the “adult arcade” games she operates are no different from those at Chuck E. Cheese, but Denver police disagree, and now she’s also facing potential felony charges.

‘Most Miserable Experience of My Life’

Needless to say, it wasn’t Garamova’s best week.

“Well, of course, I’m frightened,” said Garamova. “I’m frightened for my children. I’m frightened for my family. I can’t believe that this is happening,” the industry association leader told media.

Denver police raided two other similar arcades in October of last year. One of those cases has already gone to court and been thrown out. Garamova asserts that’s because these parlors aren’t actually doing anything illegal. The only distinction between their model and Chuck E. Cheese’s, she argues, is that players get cash prizes instead of toys for winning.

She’s convinced that arcades like hers are exempt from gambling laws, citing state statutes concerning contests of skill, speed, strength, and endurance. Her view is that players can control the outcome of the game to a certain degree, just as in fantasy sports, which was made legal in Colorado in 2016.

Better players are going to make more money, and that makes it a skill game, not gambling, says Garamova.

According to the local Denver CBS affiliate, at least one of her colleagues believes the police raids amount to a shakedown.

“We see this as an effort to do the bidding of big casinos and shut down these small businesses by being bullies, even though the businesses are perfectly legal, said Chris Howes, CSGEA’s executive director. 

Are Adult Arcades Illegal or Not?

Garamova argues that if what she was doing was really illegal, then Colorado lawmakers wouldn’t be pursuing House Bill 1234. She has publicly testified against the new bill, which intends to clarify that arcade games with cash payouts are indeed illegal in the state. It’s a bold-faced contradiction, according to the accused.

“Why are we trying to create a new law if the games are already illegal? Those ideas are conflicting,” asks Garamova.

Of the eight other similar raids in the state, none have been successfully prosecuted. In one 2016 case, the judge found that the laws being used to prosecute were “unconstitutionally vague.” Yet despite the lack of convictions, none of the business owners have had their cash and equipment returned.

Until House Bill 1234 bill is passed, Garamova says she and her fellow arcade operators should get their assets back. So far, there’s no indication of that happening.

And while three people were arrested in last week’s raids, no formal charges have been made.