Local News

Authorities Bust Cumberland County Home Gambling Operation

Posted April 9, 2000

— A makeshift home casino went belly up over the weekend in Cumberland County when deputies broke up what they say is a high stakes gambling operation.

Detectives say they hit the jackpot with an illegal family business, seizing several slot machines, poker and blackjack tables, five guns and more than $160,000 in cash.

Kenny Griggs had no idea what was going on across the fence when he saw agents storm a neighbor's house.

"It was a shock," says Griggs. "It's a little different for this neighborhood."

Detectives say Johnny Savva, his wife Patricia, and their son Johnny were gambling with the law by operating a casino out of their home.

"They had a lot of people there all the time. We just thought they had a lot of parties. We didn't know that was going on," says neighbor Charlene Griggs.

Investigators say the operation was not just a roll of the dice. It was open 24 hours a day, making up to $20,000 on a good night.

State agents say illegal gambling operations are becoming more common in North Carolina because South Carolina is about to outlaw the machines.

"Once July 1 comes, their law is strict and most operations think they have a better chance in North Carolina than South Carolina with the law itself," says Bob Stocks of theN.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement.

Across an eight-county region, state agents estimate that complaints have gone up by 600 percent in the last three months.

ALE, the North Carolina ABC Commission, and the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office are currently working several more cases in the area.

As North Carolina wrestles with legalizing a state lottery, legal gambling is becoming more common across the nation:

  • 37 states have lotteries
  • 10 states have commercial casinos
  • 19 states have tribal casinos
  • 41 states allow horse racing, dog racing or jai alai
  • Utah, Hawaii and Tennessee are the only states that do not allow any form of gambling

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