Authorities raid stores suspected of illegal gambling - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Authorities raid stores suspected of illegal gambling

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - No one saw it coming. One minute stores were open for business, the next they were shut down, store employees handcuffed and in the back of squad cars.

"This is a sting where you have been doing illegal gambling here, paying out cash payments," said Effingham County Sheriff's Office detective David Ehsanipoor to one of the store owners.

Seven gas stations in Effingham County were roped off and closed for business.

Thursday's raid came after a six month investigation that included undercover officers monitoring every gas station in the county that had casino game machines.

"These were the stores that didn't do what they were supposed to do," said Effingham County sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. "We may go three or four more months and try this again. So if you're not doing what you're supposed to do then you need to wake up and start doing it."

Gambling machines in Georgia are legal as long as there is no major cash payouts. That means people can win store credit or win a number of different prizes, but any winnings more than $5 cannot be paid out in cash.

The Effingham County Sheriff's Office says these gas stations aren't abiding by the law. 

After the raid, the sheriff's office seized more than a half a million dollars in cash along with the machines. Cash investigators say the money was made from illegal gambling.

While deputies temporarily shut down the gas stations, they have since reopened, but that could change.

"If they continue to do these illegal operations, they can expect to see us again in the near future," said Ehsanipoor.

A clear message that video poker doesn't pay in Effingham County.

A total of 12 people have been arrested. The sheriff's office says if these businesses or individuals are caught a second time participating in illegal gambling, then next time they'll seize more than just cash, they will seize the whole business.

As of Monday investigators were still going through businesses accounts.   Additional arrests are still pending.

Below are a list of the businesses raided and closed by authorities this morning:

B&N Shop and Go
407 S. Laurel Street 
Springfield, Georgia

Chevron Time Saver
601 S. Laurel Street
Springfield, Georgia

Shell Gas Station
588 Highway 21 South 
Rincon, Georgia

BP Gas station
101 South Columbia Ave
Rincon, Georgia

Rinku Gas station
507 Church Ave
Guyton Georgia

Sunoco Gas station
Highway 21 at Silverwood

El Cheapo Gas station
1023 Longbridge Road
Rincon Georgia

In 2004, WTOC produced a three part series about the problems with video game poker and the addictive qualities of these games.  To watch the series, click on the video links "Don Logana: Against the Odds" to the right of this story.

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