Illegal Video Gambling Runs Deep - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/20/05

Illegal Video Gambling Runs Deep

Put cash in, play the video game, and if you win, get a cash payout. But Savannah-Chatham police say this is not Las Vegas, and cash payouts are illegal. So yesterday, several area convenience stores got busted.

This time last year, WTOC investigated this problem. We and police both found places which gave cash payouts, and both took a little time.

Ours was over a few days. Police began their investigation four months ago. Undercover cops had to first win, then get cashiers to give them cash. And there was one location WTOC and police both checked into.

Mark Porter says he's seen it too many times at local convenience stores in Savannah. "Bunch of people taking up parking spots, gambling," he said. "I see it hundreds of times at the convenience store. It's wrong."

WTOC has seen it, too. Video game gambling addict "Lori" gave us a list of locations to check out. "When you do hit, they pay you cash behind the table," she told us.

Sometimes they pay up front. Last year, a WTOC investigation sent Mandy Randall into area stores with a hidden camera and some cash to play the games. She came out with even more money.

"I got back $5 in cash," she reported.

Discount Corner was one of the places Lori told us where cash payouts happened. We sent Mandy in. She says she got a few tips from gamblers, but didn't win. When police investigated, they got much more.

"We're dealing with cash and payouts from poker machines," said Chief Willie Lovett of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

Eight locations were busted, ten people arrested, 56 video game machines confiscated and $70,000 netted. Chief Lovett says this is just scratching surface. "We got some of them, but I am sure we did not get all of them."

"It's real deep," said Mark Porter. "I'm surprised it took this long to catch them."

He hopes the crackdown continues. He has no sympathy for anyone who gets carted off to jail. "It's illegal gambling," he said. "We have the lottery if you want to gamble."

Many of the suspects police nabbed in yesterday's raids are out of jail tonight. They face illegal commercial gambling charges.

We did try to speak with several of the businesses targeted in the police investigation. Not surprisingly no one would comment for this story.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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