Staff and wire reports
A Clovis man attempting to sell slot machines through the classifieds found out his potential buyers were actually undercover agents with the New Mexico Gaming Control Board.
John A. Mesner, 59, was arrested by Clovis police on Friday and charged with five counts of possession of illegal gaming devices and one count of unlawful transportation, sale and distribution of a gaming device.
Possessing, selling or distributing slot machines without a license in New Mexico is a felony and the laws are strictly enforced by the gaming board, said deputy executive director Greg Saunders.
That came as news to Mesner, who said he researched whether he could sell his Japanese-style gambling machines in New Mexico, but found no laws prohibiting such sales.
“It sounds like the only ones who knew it was illegal were the gaming agents,” said Mesner, who bonded out of jail for $3,000. “I was talking to the jailers, and they didn’t know it was illegal to have slot machines.”
Mesner said he likes the machines — which he bought on eBay — because of the lights and sounds and does not use them to gamble.
He said he did not feel like his arrest was an injustice, but that the laws should be more apparent.
On the second day the ad ran in the Thrifty Nickel, Mesner said he received a call from two men who wanted to look at the machines.
After showing the men how the machines worked, the men revealed they were undercover agents and called Clovis police, who took Mesner off to jail.
“We check all publications for articles advertising slot machines for sale,” said Loretta Chavez, public relations coordinator for the state’s gaming control board.
Chavez said the cost of a slot machine can range between $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the quality.
The case has been referred to the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Brett Carter said if convicted, Mesner could face up to 18 months in prison for the offenses.
Since 1998, the state gaming board has confiscated and destroyed more than 2,000 gaming machines and components, Chavez said.
The board, which went into operations in June 1998, is responsible for regulating gambling at the state’s licensed race tracks and veterans’ and fraternal clubs. It also oversees the state’s gaming compacts with tribes.