City Attorney Files Suit Targeting Alleged Illegal Gambling

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit today with the aim of shutting down an alleged illegal gambling operation in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood after the owners and operators have refused to shut it down.

The lawsuit, filed against the owners and operators of Kingston Shack, located at 3437 Mission St. at the intersection with Kingston Street, aims to stop the operation of computerized slot machines, according to city attorney’s spokesman Matt Dorsey.

Slot machines are only permitted on Native American reservations in California but are prohibited elsewhere.

The operators have allegedly defied multiple police citations by continuing to operate, Dorsey said.

“Illicit gambling dens like Kingston Shack are a terrible neighborhood nuisance,” Herrera said in a statement. “They inevitably harbor criminal activity, they diminish residents’ quality of life, and it’s no surprise that they quickly emerge as major targets of neighbors’ complaints.”

Herrera said he hopes his lawsuit sends a clear message to operators of illegal establishments that his office will aggressively pursue maximum civil penalties.

“I’m certain that Kingston Shack’s owners and operators will come to regret that they didn’t take warnings from police more seriously,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges that the five defendants are breaking state and local laws by soliciting patrons to gamble at the electronic slot machines for the chance to win cash payouts.

The lawsuit names Marlene Cruz, Norma Estrada and John Gregory Ibarra as owners or operators of the Kingston Shack. The lawsuit lists Lien Sheng Ho and Jian Rong Ma as trustees of the Ho/Ma Family Trust, which owns the property where it is in operation.

The five defendants are alleged to be in violation of California’s Red Light Abatement Act, as well state and city laws that prohibit the possession and operation of slot machines.

The suit also alleges that the defendants are in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The lawsuit could stop the illegal gambling, close the establishment for one year and secure penalties of $25,000 against each of the defendants.

Up to $2,500 in additional civil penalties could also be secured for each unlawful business act proven at trial, according to Dorsey.

Dorsey said the lawsuit continues the city’s efforts to target gambling-related neighborhood nuisances.

In 2013, Herrera filed a lawsuit against Net Stop in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood, which forced the establishment’s closure. Within months of the filing of that lawsuit, illicit gambling operations at Cybertime and City Business Center ended following unlitigated enforcement actions, Dorsey said.

In addition, a stipulated injunction against gambling software vendor Figure 8 Technologies Inc., which served Net Stop, was also granted, forcing the vendor to cease all of its operations in California for five years.

Dorsey said illegal gambling establishments not only increase calls to police from neighborhood residents, but also tend to attract related criminal activity.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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