Austrian authorities raid 17 illegal gambling venues

| By Conor Mulheir
Austria’s financial police carried out a coordinated series of raids on 17 suspected illegal gambling venues earlier this week, 16 of which were found to be in operation and subsequently shut down.

The venues were described as bars and restaurants, which are connected together with what the authorities called an “almost perfect advance warning system”.

This, Austria’s Ministry of Finance said, was the reason given for carrying out the raids simultaneously, in order to prevent one venue from warning others.

Most of the venues are located in covert locations such as closed alleyways, with personal access control, according to the Ministry.

Access to the venues was granted voluntarily to police, meaning they were not required to force entry.

Officers found as many as 17 gaming machines in each of the venues, five of which had the devices screwed to the floors, which therefore needed to be removed with the fire brigade’s assistance.

The Ministry of Finance said that the operation was preceded by intensive preliminary investigations and evaluations, and that those responsible for the venues behind the scenes are currently being sought with a full investigation underway.

“The record of the night of action is impressive,” said finance minister Gernot Blümel.

“A total of 91 devices were confiscated and transported away by the financial police. I congratulate my colleagues in the financial police on this blow against the gambling mafia and on their professional work.”

Two other illegal gambling venues were shut down by the financial police in February, in the Vienna districts of Donaustadt and Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus.

In January, the Ministry of Finance had reported an increased number of illegal gaming devices seized by police in 2020, despite law enforcement’s day-to-day operations being disrupted by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

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