Local News

Cumberland Raids Force Video Poker Operators to Fold

Posted August 3, 2007 10:53 a.m. EDT
Updated August 3, 2007 7:25 p.m. EDT

— Authorities confiscated 64 illegal video poker machines and nearly $8,000 in cash in Cumberland County late Thursday and early Friday, they said.

Members of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, along with agents from the State Bureau of Investigation and state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, searched more than 60 locations, including private homes, as part of "Operation Empty Pockets."

"I hope this will send a message that we're out there (and) we're going to continue to be monitoring this," Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said.

The machines were found across the county, including some in Spring Lake, Hope Mills and Stedman, authorities said. They have been placed in cells in the former county jail and will be destroyed after the criminal cases are resolved.

"At some point, we will destroy them. That's what we hope. They're illegal. There's no way they can be made legal in the state," Butler said.

Thirty-five citations were issued, all for misdemeanors. Investigators said they expected to make more arrests.

Video poker became illegal in North Carolina on July 1. State law allowed up to three machines in any establishment until last year, when lawmakers approved a one-year phase-out of the games.

Butler said area businesses were notified of the new rules, but some chose to continue operating video poker machines.

"They know what's legal and illegal," he said. "They can talk all they want about, 'We didn't know this.' They know. We've been dealing with the stuff for several years."

State law makes it a felony to operate five or more of the machines, and Butler said he expects felony counts to be among new charges.

"People who push these machines over the years, they say it's a mom-and-pop operation. Let me tell you, it's big bucks," he said.