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Pubs hit by fruit-machine fiddlers

PUBLISHED: 10:52 15 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:31 03 March 2010

GANGS targeting fruit machines are fleecing Suffolk pub landlords of their cash, it was revealed today. Michael Collins, co-licensee of PJ McGinty and Sons, said his premises have been hit around a dozen times in the last month by small groups either fiddling the machines or having found a fail-safe way to beat them.

GANGS targeting fruit machines are fleecing Suffolk pub landlords of their cash, it was revealed today.

Michael Collins, co-licensee of PJ McGinty and Sons, said his premises have been hit around a dozen times in the last month by small groups either fiddling the machines or having found a fail-safe way to beat them.

Police, fruit machine suppliers and licensees have met to agree ways of cracking down on the problem that has caused revenue losses at pubs from Ipswich to Capel St Mary.

Landlords are now to put warning stickers on their machines alerting potential fraudsters to the fact that they are being watched and suppliers are to relate the concerns of licensees to those who make the gaming machines.

"I've had people coming on our premises very specifically looking at the machines and looking around to know who is checking on them," said Mr Collins describing how the groups beat the machines, either tampering with them or finding a sure way to win, before making a sharp exit with the cash.

"They give themselves away because they take the money and then run out," he said.

Chairman of Pubwatch (which links around 40 pubs in the town) Mr Collins warned that those behaving suspiciously at fruit machines or fiddling them could be barred from Ipswich's drinking spots. And he advised all licensees in the town to put their fruit machines in a place visible to pub staff so they could keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour.

"We're getting to know the faces and they will be barred," he said. "If we work together on this, we will beat them. We can't be a laughing stock for these people," he said.

Chris Tassell, regional security officer for LEISURE Link which supplies fruit machines to pubs, said: "It's the first time it's happened in Ipswich. It has been happening in the last three or four years [elsewhere in Britain] and is not a new problem but it's new here."

Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey said police had the powers to stop and search anyone they thought may have been tampering with machines and pledged to inform Ipswich officers of the type of instruments such crooks used to empty the machines of cash.

"We'll make sure our officers are adequately briefed about the tools of the trade that these people use," he said. Ipswich police have had around seven reports of fruit machines being tampered with in the town since the beginning of the year.

Mr Collins said Pubwatch's messaging system would be used to alert licensees around the town to any suspicious incidents. While it is not against the law to find fail-safe ways of beating the gaming machines without physically tampering with them, Mr Collins warned that licensees have the right to bar anyone they have suspicions about.

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