Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County in the case of In Re: Liberty Fire Company, Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, No. 53 Misc. 1986.
Eileen S. Maunus, Assistant Counsel, with her, Kenneth B. Skelly, Chief Counsel, for appellant.
Anthony J. Miernicki, with him, Nicholas M. Panko, for appellee.
Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Narick.
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 627]
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County reversing the PLCB's imposition of a $400 fine upon the Liberty Fire Company of Schuylkill Haven (Appellee) for possessing, maintaining or permitting gambling or lotteries on licensed premises.
The relevant facts are not in dispute. A PLCB agent entered Appellee's establishment and discovered the following: On the bar was a cigar box containing $52.50 along with betting slips bearing names, amounts of money, and a series of 3-digit numbers. Behind the bar were three books of raffle tickets offering prizes in exchange for donations to three different fire companies, including the Appellee. The trial court accepted Appellee's explanation, through the testimony of one of its trustees, that it collected the betting slips, on official Pennsylvania Lottery forms, as an accommodation to its members who were unable to play the Pennsylvania Lottery during the hours its official agents were open for business. Once a day, the bartender would take the numbers and money to one of the official agents to place bets for Appellee's members. Thus, the court concluded that Appellee was not involved in an illegal gambling operation. With respect to the raffle tickets, the court held that while there was "little doubt that these constitute
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 628]
gambling paraphernalia and are therefore made illegal by the Crimes Code of Pennsylvania," there was no evidence to establish that the maintenance of these slips in the establishment was sanctioned or authorized by Appellee. Appellee's trustee testified that he had even ejected the person who brought in the tickets on prior occasions. For these reasons, the trial court reversed the fine. We reverse.
Our scope of review in a de novo appeal of this nature is limited to a determination of whether there is evidence to support the PLCB's order and whether or not the trial court committed an error of law or abused its discretion. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board v. United Veterans Association of Blair County, 93 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 477, 501 A.2d 362 (1985).
It is well settled that Section 471 of the Liquor Code (Code), Act of April 12, 1951, P.L. 90, as amended, 47 P.S. § 4-471, authorizes the PLCB to cite a licensee for any violation of the Code, any law of the Commonwealth, or upon any other sufficient cause shown. V.J.R. Bar Corporation v. Liquor Control Board, 480 Pa. 322, 390 A.2d 163 (1978). In V.J.R. Bar, our Supreme Court discussed at length the breadth of power that section confers upon the PLCB. It noted that the "sufficient cause" language of the section is not limited to violations of law, citing In Re: Quaker City Development Company, 27 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 13, 365 A.2d 683 (1976) and Petty Liquor License Case, 216 Pa. Superior Ct. 55, 258 A.2d 874 (1969), and went on to list various types of conduct for which our courts have upheld the imposition of penalties. See V.J.R. Bar at 324-5, 390 A.2d at 164.
Here, the trial court determined, with respect to the lottery ticket forms, that Appellee was merely acting as an agent in placing legal bets for its members. However, ...