Denver Skill Games Operators Face Hundreds of Charges for Illegal Gambling

Posted on: April 14, 2018, 07:00h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2018, 04:55h.

Three individuals are facing hundreds of charges from the Denver District Attorney’s Office in connection with what officials say were illegal gaming activities at so-called skill games operations.

Denver Skill Games charges
Bagrat Garamov, Tammy Garamova, and Eduard Gugulyan were arrested for allegedly operating illegal gaming businesses, though they say their skill games were legal. (Image: Denver District Attorney’s Office)

The three individuals who have been charged include Bagrat Garamov, his wife Tammy Garamova, and their business associate, Eduard Gugulyan. The three are accused of running illegal gaming operations through their businesses, known as American Pride Skill Games, El Dorado Skill Games, and La Fortuna.

Investigation Began Last Year

In total, the three individuals are facing 430 charges. The accusations include multiple counts of engaging in professional gambling, possession of gambling devices, maintaining gambling premises, shipping/invoicing slot machines, and fraudulent limited gaming acts.

These businesses have been controversial in the Denver area for some time. Local media outlets like KDVR Fox 31 have been looking into the operations since at least May 2017, finding that while the operators claimed they ran amusement games like the ones found at a Dave and Buster’s, these machines offered cash payouts and felt a lot more like slot machines. Police also began an undercover investigation of the businesses that same month.

Skill Games Legal? Owners, DA Disagree

The owners insisted that they were skill games, as nudge features meant that better players would have a better chance of winning. Operators have also argued that under current law, their businesses are legal, and that the fact that lawmakers are trying to pass a bill to specifically outlaw what they are doing proves it.

“Why are we trying to create a new law if the games are already illegal?” asked Garamova, who also serves as the president of the Colorado Skill Games and Entertainment Association (CSGEA). “Those ideas are conflicting.”

But Colorado law enforcement officials clearly disagreed with this assessment, arresting the three business owners on March 27. Officers had previously raided the businesses beginning last July, seizing hundreds of gaming machines in the process.

“Neither the businesses nor their co-owners are licensed to possess slot machines or to operate gaming establishments by the Colorado Division of Gaming,” the Denver County District Attorney said in a statement. “Gambling is only legal in Colorado in limited circumstances and locations that do not apply to the alleged above illegal gaming activities.”

Gugulyan made his first court appearance on Thursday, and is scheduled to appear again on May 14. The Garamovs were scheduled to have their first court appearances on April 13.

According to a report by KDVR, Garamov – who is facing 198 criminal charges – has previously faced charges in connection with alien trafficking, though those charges were terminated after a co-defendant was convicted on similar counts. Garamov also has a previous conviction in Arapahoe County from 2000 for harassment.

Tammy Garamov faces 172 charges stemming from the skill games operations, while Gugulyan is facing 60 counts.