Father and son avoid jail over £7m gaming machines racket
A Co Armagh father and son yesterday narrowly avoided prison over their role in a £7m gaming machines racket.
John Bailie (66), of Francis Street and his son Anthony Bailie (41), of Boconnell Street, both Lurgan, were each handed eight month prison sentences, suspended for a year.
The pair pleaded guilty to a series of charges under the NI Betting and Gaming Lottery Amusements Order 1985.
John Bailie further admitted possession of criminal property totalling £570,438 as a result of the racket, which spanned a five-year period.
Belfast Crown Court heard that in January 2015 police carried out co-ordinated raids on three amusement arcades in the Greater Belfast area owned by John Bailie's company Corcrain Enterprises Ltd, which held council-issued permits for the rented premises.
Prosecution counsel David McDowell QC said the premises searched were 'Winners 777' based at Shaftsbury Square and Lisburn Road in Belfast and at Chapel Hill in Lisburn.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC heard that during the Belfast searches, police were accompanied by officials from the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), who inspected the machines on the premises.
Mr McDowell said that under the amusement permits issued, machines were only allowed to accept stakes of 30 pence with a maximum payout of £25.
However, when the machines were played at the Belfast arcades, BGLC officials discovered that payouts were "in excess of the permitted amounts".
In total, the prosecutor said police recovered £126,000 in cash from three premises along with computers which recorded payouts to players of up to £3,500.
He told the judge: "You can see from the amounts of money that were involved they were operating as an illicit casino."
The court was told that at the Chapel Hill premises PSNI officers were not accompanied by BGLC officials and instead video recorded police officers playing the machines which paid out in excess of the £25 permitted limit.
Mr McDowell said that during the search at Shaftsbury Square, a female employee told police her "boss" was Anthony Bailie.
He later came to the premises and provided police with keys to the 30 machines on the premises and after arrest and caution, he replied: "I wish to inform police that all arcades across Northern Ireland operate the same machines."
Police also arrested John Bailie at his Francis Street home and "£96,000 was seized from various locations and areas of the house".
The prosecutor said that between 2009 and 2015, a total of £7m had flowed through the accounts of Corcrain Enterprises Ltd from the illicit racket.
Police investigators discovered that almost £327,000 had been transferred out of the company accounts of John Bailie and his wife Anne, who was also charged over the scam but died in March 2018 from cancer.
The court heard that confiscation proceedings were now underway to recover £570,749 from the company and John Bailie.
The prosecution counsel said John Bailie had a caution on his record for similar offending in 2012, while his son had a clear record. Both were assessed by probation as posing a medium risk of reoffending.
Karen Quinlivan QC for father-of-four John Bailie said he now "accepted and regretted his actions and had shown genuine remorse".
Ronan Lavery QC for Anthony Bailie said: "This has been a very difficult four years for the whole family. His medical reports show a significant deterioration in his condition over these last few years. He has stopped work and is unable to work and now lives on PIP benefits. He too has shown genuine remorse for his actions."
Mr Lavery also urged the judge not to jail his client.
Judge Miller said that he had been persuaded by the arguments of both defence QCs and would impose eight month sentences on both defendants, suspended for 12 months.
The judge also fined Corcrain Enterprises Ltd £30,000 and banned John Bailie from being a company director for five years.
All machines and computers seized were made the subject of a forfeiture order and the proceeds from their sale will go to Addiction NI.