METTER, GA (WTOC) - Cars filled the parking lot of Peaches convenience store on South Lewis Street. But the only people going in or out wore badges and guns. Police, sheriff's deputies as well as GBI and federal agents raided it and several other stores Thursday on illegal gambling charges.
Authorities raided stores in Candler and Emanuel County and arrested clerks and other employees. They hauled electronic gaming machines from each. GBI Special Agent Alan Watson said the machines themselves are not illegal.
"You can have them for entertainment or amusement purposes and give players credits for $5 in store products," he said. "But, when you're giving out $400 to $500 or $2,000 in cash, that's gambling."
Swainsboro Police Chief Randy Ellison said some owners forewent the store locations and set up dummy businesses to hide the gambling.
"They come in and set up a 'cell phone and doughnut' store, but there's not much cellular and no doughnuts available," he stated.
Ellison also said he's gotten plenty of complaints about the gambling, mostly from upset wives whose husbands had lost entire paychecks to the machines.
Authorities said the operations mostly prey on lower income players, which makes them more contemptible.
Those arrested remain in the Candler and Emanuel County jails, awaiting bond hearings.