American Legion Post 43 in Raceland is facing charges it illegally promoted gambling and sold alcohol at its clubhouse.
The charges — two counts each of selling alcohol in a dry territory and promoting gambling in the second degree — are class B and A misdemeanors, respectively. They stem from a two-month joint investigation by the Public Protection Cabinet’s Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and the Department of Charitable Gaming, which culminated in a warranted search of the Greenup Avenue clubhouse on Monday.
That search turned up a quantity of alcoholic beverages, cash and gambling paraphernalia, including pull tabs, which were seized. According to ABC and Charitable Gaming officials, the investigation stemmed from complaints about illegal activities at the post. Undercover surveillance by enforcement agents revealed alcohol was served and sold and gambling was allowed at the post, said officials.
The club has been served with four criminal summonses to appear in Greenup District Court on May 29.
Post Commander Dennis Page declined to comment on the sale of alcohol at the club, but did address the illegal gambling allegations. “We’re trying to get our gaming license so we will be legal on the gambling part of it,” he said, noting the post frequently has fundraisers for nonprofit organizations and police and fire departments.
“Some of the raffles and things, according to them (charitable gaming officials), were not legal,” said Page, who noted other activities at the post, including its pool tournaments, were licensed. “It is kind of a fine line to walk,” he said.
Officials with the Department of Charitable Gaming were unavailable for immediate comment on Monday.
ABC staff assistant Nathan Jones said finding illegal gambling and alcohol sales are “not too infrequent occurrences.” He said private clubs are not the only offenders; “different types of venues” are found to be in violation from time to time.
Jones said Post 43 has had no prior incidents to his knowledge.
“Our ABC investigators are mostly charged with enforcing ABC laws. They deal mostly with our licensees. Occasionally, they will get a complaint and they will go in and do some investigation, but our main focus is on alcohol retail outlets,” Jones said.
During the investigation, he said, ABC officers documented no requests for identification or club membership to enter the premises. “It seemed like it was operating without much concern over who was coming in and going out,” he said.
“One thing that we try to do is combat underage access to alcohol. That is one of our priorities. We don’t have anything that says there was a minor drinking there. “But anytime you have an unlicensed place that is operating on their own, that is always a risk. That is what makes these investigations important.”
Kentucky law does provide for alcohol licenses for private clubs, but not in dry counties; Greenup County is dry.
Voters affirmed that status this year when a countywide election to allow alcohol sales failed with 55 percent voting against alcohol sales and 44 in favor of legalizing alcohol.
Interestingly, Raceland city leaders were the only officials to take action prior to the vote to put in place an alcohol ordinance. However, precinct voting results show the measure failed in Raceland overwhelmingly.
The club will continue to host activities, including its Memorial Day Veterans Dinner on Sunday.
American Legion Post 43 was established in the 1940s, according to Page.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.