First ‘citizen academy’ sheds light on DPS gambling, alcohol enforcement

First ‘citizens academy’ sheds light on gambling and alcohol enforcement

First 'citizens academy' sheds light on gambling and alcohol enforcement

A first-of-its-kind Minnesota Department of Public Safety citizen academy recently wrapped up, shedding light on the work to make sure the state’s massive charitable gambling and alcohol industry operates legally.

Held by DPS’ Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement (AGE) division, the classes had a group of community members, government workers and charity gambling leaders. The goal was to highlight the important work this little-known division does.

AGE has regulatory authority for the issuance of alcohol licenses and permits, gaming device licenses and legalized gambling.

“Pull tabs, bingo, meat raffles, those are all items that we would investigate if there’s any claims of any misconduct or any crimes that have occurred there,” AGE Special Agent Brad Rezny said, adding: “[On] the alcohol side, we would check into bars, caterers, anything that requires a license through the state.”

Graduates of the first-ever Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division citizen academy pose with their certificates. (Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Public Safety)

Tuesday night, participants took part in their fifth and final class. Resny congratulated them the week before, letting them know they will graduate from the inaugural academy. Also that week, a special guest was the star of the class: the state’s only currency-sniffing K-9, Bia.

“She’s a 2-year-old German shorthaired pointer,” said Resny, who is also her handler.

Resny demonstrated how quickly Bia is able to track cash. It took her a matter of seconds to find a stack of cash inside a car and another stack tucked in the engine compartment.

Bia joined AGE last August and has already been part of 20 different investigations, helping find tens of thousands of dollars in possible fraudulent cash.

“The amounts of money that are taken a lot of these times are nowhere near what that individuals are able [to pay back]” Rezny said. “So if we can find some of that concealed currency, not only does it help us prove the crimes that were committed, [it also makes] that victim somewhat whole again.”

According to DPS, since 2021, AGE special agents have recovered more than $230,000 in illegally obtained money. And last year, AGE:

  • Completed 480 slot machine and 60 blackjack inspections.
  • Was part of 170 investigations looking into charitable gambling theft and fraud, horse wagering and Minnesota card club violations, lottery theft and fraud and illegal gambling and liquor operations.

The citizens class also learned how one of Minnesota’s most popular form of gambling, pull tabs, can be cheated. Resny handed out hundreds of pull tabs that were from a previous investigation where class members were tasked with finding the pull tabs that have been “peeked.”

Peeking happens when a pull tab seller opens the tabs slightly to try to find a winning tab to either cash themselves or have an associate do it.

“Alcohol and gambling is kind of an enigma for most people to understand, so this really clears that up and you get a full flavor of what the agency does,” said David Loffelmacher, who was part of the inaugural class.

“We all assume that it goes to the right place,” Loffelmacher said about the proceeds from the charity gambling industry. “But alcohol and gambling does attract other interests and it’s so nice that we have a force that keeps that on track.”

Resny said the first citizen academy went so well that they plan to host another this fall.