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464 gaming machines seized in S.C.

GamblingGambling: 464 gaming machines seized in S.C.

Businesses say despite payouts, games aren't illegal gambling

South Carolina authorities seized 464 gaming machines and computers Thursday from 13 York County businesses accused of hosting illegal gambling just over the N.C. state line.

Drawing attention were an increasing number of "Internet cafes" where customers played video slots with prepaid cards. Business owners defended them as legal sweepstakes. Authorities, however, said the cafes, which pay out money to winners, are thinly veiled attempts to get around state gambling laws.

The burgeoning cafes appeared poised to become another wave of gaming similar to video-poker parlors that sprouted in border towns in the 1990s, authorities said.

Video poker took off in 1991 after the state Supreme Court said payouts were legal. Lawmakers banned payouts in 2000.

"As time goes on we can foresee the problem growing greater and greater as it did in 2000 when people were losing their cars and their homes," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said. "It's obvious that we're headed back in that direction. We want to sort of nip it before it gets out of hand."

Business owners said their games, which are growing nationwide, were no different than sweepstakes offered at fast-food restaurants or Internet gambling available on home computers.

"Judges and lawyers can play games like this at their office," said Doug McManus, owner of Big Daddy's Fireworks on U.S. 21 near Carowinds, which had a cafe for nearly a year. "These are penny games here. It's more for fun than anything else."

No arrests; fines possible

Of the 464 machines taken, 395 were tied to Internet games. Authorities also collected $34,000 from the businesses.Officials did not announce any arrests Thursday. Business owners could face fines of $500 per machine or up to a year in prison, 16th Circuit Solicitor Tommy Pope said. Authorities cited the state's two anti-gambling laws in seizing the machines, said Marvin Brown, who heads a York County law-enforcement unit that conducted the raid with the State Law Enforcement Division.

At least seven cafes within a couple of miles of the Carowinds theme park were raided along with three in Rock Hill. Some cafes had been open for nearly a year, but several others had opened in the past month.

The cafes were attached to fireworks stores and occupied old video-poker parlors and nightclubs. One shopping center at U.S. 21 and S.C. 51 had three cafes.

Long counters lined with flat-panel monitors and padded office chairs filled the dark, often smoky Fort Mill cafes. Keyboards usually were stored under counters because players didn't need them for the games.

Employees offered free soft drinks and snacks to players engrossed in their screens.

Cafe customers got cards for prepaid time to surf the Web, but the computers were preset to play video-slot games. After spending a free $1.60 already on the cards, players could add money to keep playing the Internet games. Then players could take their cards to cashiers and take home their winnings.

'This is a gray area'

Steve Miller, owner of a convenience store on S.C. 51, said he brought in 20 computers for Internet games two weeks ago because he expects to lose much of his S.C. state lottery ticket business soon.

North Carolina is scheduled to start a state lottery in four weeks. Miller was in the midst of building a room for 15 more computers, which he said he thought were legal, when sheriff's deputies raided his store.

"They haven't told me what's wrong with the machines," Miller said, watching two sheriff's deputies tag his computers for inventory. "This is a gray area. You can sit at these computers and go on the Internet.  You could check your e-mail or play sweepstakes."

Authorities also carted off other gaming machines. Business owners said they didn't understand why machines that played slotlike video games and sold sweepstakes cards were taken because many had been in place for more than five years. Three businesses raided Thursday only had gaming machines.

Pope said the owners should not think the machines are legal just because no one ever questioned them. "It's the same definition of gambling we've always had," he said. "It all starts with payoffs, you're giving something to get something."

A growing issue nationwide

Gambling has become a large enough issue that the S.C. attorney general has asked for a gambling prosecutor in his latest budget request, spokesman Trey Walker said. "There is a tremendous amount of money to be made in running these," he said. "People engaged in this are willing to push the line as far as this goes."

Internet sweepstakes cafes have made the biggest inroads in Alabama, where a state court ruled them legal after a series of raids. Internet cafes with sweepstakes games are also in Massachusetts, Texas and Florida, said Karl Maahs, operations manager for Game Systems, a Texas company that sells the cafe computers.

After a series of cafe raids last year, an S.C. state court denied a move by cafe operators to halt further seizures. S.C. cafe operators are awaiting the first criminal case to reach trial to determine whether their sweepstakes are legal, said Jim Griffin, a Columbia attorney representing Game Systems.

13 Businesses Affected

Authorities seized 464 gaming machines from the following businesses:

  • Party World II, Rock Hill
  • The Best Stop, Rock Hill
  • Mount Gallant Sweepstakes, Rock Hill
  • Red Rocket, Fort Mill
  • Lottery SuperCenter, Fort Mill
  • Lotto World, Fort Mill
  • Millers Produce, Fort Mill
  • Lucky Lotto, Fort Mill
  • Blazin 777, Fort Mill
  • Big Daddy's Quick Pick Lotto, Fort Mill
  • Fort Apache, Fort Mill
  • Hello Money Internet Cafe, Fort Mill
  • House of Winners, Fort Mill

Gambling machines are removed from the Lottery Supercenter on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill on Thursday morning. Around 9 a.m., about 50 officers raided 12 businesses in Rock Hill and Fort Mill. No criminal charges were filed. Many of the machines were used to participate in an online sweepstakes, which police say is illegal. Owners of the stores with the machines claim otherwise and have the backing of some lawyers.

Charlotte Observer

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12 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by CASH Only.
Page 1 of 1
Tenaj's avatar - michellea
Charlotte NC
United States
Member #17406
June 18, 2005
4053 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 3, 2006, 6:40 pm - IP Logged

 

 Yes Nod 

"As time goes on we can foresee the problem growing greater and greater as it did in 2000 when people were losing their cars and their homes," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said. "It's obvious that we're headed back in that direction. We want to sort of nip it before it gets out of hand."

I thought this all along, they don't care if these people lose their cars and homes, what they care about is the money leaving SC and old money being cut.

I believe this is the big factor in why the NC Lottery is so problematic.  If the money was going in their pockets it would be a different story.

takeemtothebank

    Avatar
    Sparta, NJ
    United States
    Member #18331
    July 9, 2005
    1977 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: March 3, 2006, 6:45 pm - IP Logged

    OMG - someone trying to make money off of gambling - besides the Government!  Stop that immediately, or they will have to result to bribes to make extra money!

    Cheers

    |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

    I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

      Avatar
      Coastal Georgia
      United States
      Member #2653
      October 30, 2003
      1866 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: March 3, 2006, 9:26 pm - IP Logged

      That's right , Chewie.

      Remember, we can buy a lottery ticket, which is gambling Blue Angel

      but we can't bet on a football game, which is gambling.    Red Devil

      We can buy a scratch off ticket, which is gambling,             Blue Angel

      but we  cannot play a computer game of chance , which is gambling  Red Devil

      I so confused !!!  Bang Head

       

                                     

                    

       

       

        Avatar
        Sparta, NJ
        United States
        Member #18331
        July 9, 2005
        1977 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: March 4, 2006, 8:34 am - IP Logged

        Don't be confused.  If your state can make money off of it, it is legal.  Otherwise it is illegal!  There would be legislatures jumping out of buiildings if people actually quit smoking and drinking.  The money would dry up.  Then they would have to legalize drugs, to make up for the losses! Yes, based on the past 40 years, America's future is not looking that great!

        Cheers

        |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

        I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

          Avatar
          Bethesda, Maryland
          United States
          Member #16901
          June 6, 2005
          446 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: March 4, 2006, 2:50 pm - IP Logged

          3/4/2006

          LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL......I'm laughing tooooo hard to express a complete thought...

          LOLOLOLOLOLOLOOOLOLOL............................................................

            Avatar
            Sparta, NJ
            United States
            Member #18331
            July 9, 2005
            1977 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: March 4, 2006, 4:16 pm - IP Logged

            That's right , Chewie.

            Remember, we can buy a lottery ticket, which is gambling Blue Angel

            but we can't bet on a football game, which is gambling.    Red Devil

            We can buy a scratch off ticket, which is gambling,             Blue Angel

            but we  cannot play a computer game of chance , which is gambling  Red Devil

            I so confused !!!  Bang Head

            Toooooo bad there isn't sound to go with that!

            Cheers

            |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

            I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

              Tenaj's avatar - michellea
              Charlotte NC
              United States
              Member #17406
              June 18, 2005
              4053 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: March 4, 2006, 4:46 pm - IP Logged

              UnhappyI feel sorry for the businesses that are going to lose money because of this.  Some probably borrowed money and spent life saving to set up those businesses. 

              Some people are losing jobs behind this as well.

              takeemtothebank

                Avatar
                Coastal Georgia
                United States
                Member #2653
                October 30, 2003
                1866 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: March 4, 2006, 5:09 pm - IP Logged

                UnhappyI feel sorry for the businesses that are going to lose money because of this.  Some probably borrowed money and spent life saving to set up those businesses. 

                Some people are losing jobs behind this as well.

                They should have been better prepared ie: the laws on "gambling".

                They can still run their internet cafe's....heck, I will stop in and log on with my laptop next time I'm in Rock Hill. That is if they are still there..... 

                I agree this is going to hurt them financially, but again, the risk vs. reward factor was in play( no pun intended ).

                 

                DD

                 

                                               

                              

                 

                 

                  Avatar
                  Sparta, NJ
                  United States
                  Member #18331
                  July 9, 2005
                  1977 Posts
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                  Posted: March 4, 2006, 5:16 pm - IP Logged

                  UnhappyI feel sorry for the businesses that are going to lose money because of this.  Some probably borrowed money and spent life saving to set up those businesses. 

                  Some people are losing jobs behind this as well.

                  I have no sympathy for the businesses, they are there to make money off of people.  The workers, some, maybe.  Not all workers need to be punished, they need a job.  You go into business to make money, becareful of what business you choose.  If they chose to get rich selling cigarettes, and state banned cirgarettes, that would have been a bad business choice!

                  Most tiimes, I agree with you, not on this one.

                  Cheers

                  |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

                  I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

                    Tenaj's avatar - michellea
                    Charlotte NC
                    United States
                    Member #17406
                    June 18, 2005
                    4053 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: March 4, 2006, 5:23 pm - IP Logged

                    UnhappyI feel sorry for the businesses that are going to lose money because of this.  Some probably borrowed money and spent life saving to set up those businesses. 

                    Some people are losing jobs behind this as well.

                    I have no sympathy for the businesses, they are there to make money off of people.  The workers, some, maybe.  Not all workers need to be punished, they need a job.  You go into business to make money, becareful of what business you choose.  If they chose to get rich selling cigarettes, and state banned cirgarettes, that would have been a bad business choice!

                    Most tiimes, I agree with you, not on this one.

                    Yes NodThat's OK Chewie.  You are right, I just saw myself in the situation.  Losses on income tax will take care of some of the financial lost.

                    takeemtothebank

                      Avatar
                      Sparta, NJ
                      United States
                      Member #18331
                      July 9, 2005
                      1977 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: March 5, 2006, 6:55 am - IP Logged

                      UnhappyI feel sorry for the businesses that are going to lose money because of this.  Some probably borrowed money and spent life saving to set up those businesses. 

                      Some people are losing jobs behind this as well.

                      I have no sympathy for the businesses, they are there to make money off of people.  The workers, some, maybe.  Not all workers need to be punished, they need a job.  You go into business to make money, becareful of what business you choose.  If they chose to get rich selling cigarettes, and state banned cirgarettes, that would have been a bad business choice!

                      Most tiimes, I agree with you, not on this one.

                      Yes NodThat's OK Chewie.  You are right, I just saw myself in the situation.  Losses on income tax will take care of some of the financial lost.

                      I would also think, most are some sort of LLC or other corporation, thus, palming the losses off to the creditors.  The actual owners will walk away clean, with a fat bank account.  A smart business plan always uses some one elses money.

                      Cheers

                      |||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

                      I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice


                        United States
                        Member #379
                        June 5, 2002
                        11296 Posts
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                        Posted: March 6, 2006, 7:06 pm - IP Logged

                        I thought SC did away with video poker. Oh well.