Anthony Zenner

Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

Anthony Zenner, owner of Zenner Vending, exits District Judge Robert Redlinger’s office Wednesday after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing on gambling charges.

A longtime East Washington businessman who state prosecutors accuse of running a multi-county illegal gambling operation waived his right to a proceeding before a district judge Wednesday.

Anthony Zenner, 58, forewent a scheduled preliminary hearing before District Judge Robert Redlinger, allowing the case to proceed to Common Pleas Court.

His attorney said the move was part of an agreement with the state attorney general’s office allowing the defense to begin reviewing the state’s evidence in the case against Zenner, who is charged with corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and providing gambling devices.

Attorney Christopher Blackwell said because of the many machines owned by his client’s business, Zenner Vending, “parsing through which ones he’s actually being charged with is going to be difficult. I’m sure there’s volumes of discovery material, and we decided to move on to that before filing any pretrial motions.”

The attorney general’s office filed charges last month, saying Zenner had made more than $7 million in illegal profits between 2006 to 2017, when he allegedly provided at least 142 illegal machines to clubs in Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

“Most of (Zenner’s) business is in legitimate vending, small games of chance,” Blackwell told reporters outside Redlinger’s office. “A lot of his machines that he’s been charged with – he actually held licenses in the various townships where they were placed.”

Blackwell later added that once he determines which machines the prosecutors are referencing, “then we’re better able to say which ones we have licenses for.”

He said Zenner has been in business for “probably more than 35 years.”

Prosecutors say participating bars and clubs, which allegedly split the proceeds evenly with Zenner, made cash payouts to players who “won” credits on his machines. Such payouts are illegal under state law.

Investigators also found all of Zenner’s machines allegedly had “knock off” devices and an internal accounting feature that kept track of each player’s credits earned and winnings, making them illegal.

Zenner is free on $30,000 bond.

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