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Aiken, S.C. officials to crack down on illegal games

Police to enforce law starting today

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Starting Monday, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division say they will begin enforcing the state’s gaming device statute.

Illegal gaming machines confiscated from First Stop Convenience Store on Tobacco Road in 2011 are held as evidence.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Illegal gaming machines confiscated from First Stop Convenience Store on Tobacco Road in 2011 are held as evidence.

Games, including “sweepstake, video poker or any other electronic game of chance that may have a payout in cash, vouchers, gift cards or merchandise,” have been ruled illegal, Capt. Troy Elwell wrote in an e-mail.

According to Elwell, the law has been pretty consistent, but the machines keep changing. Those changes allow some machines to skirt the law because they do not involve any cash changing hands. One newer game in particular, deeming itself “sweepstakes,” sends users to another screen where they can find discount vouchers or links to online merchandise.

Both new and old machines could recently be found in more than half of the county’s convenience stores, Elwell said. However, since the release of this new warning, most stores have disposed of the machines.

“It seems like everyone is cooperating,” he said.

Beginning Monday, if the Sheriff’s Office finds a machine in a store, deputies will confiscate it and take it to a magistrate judge who will rule if it is an illegal device. If so, authorities will confiscate and destroy it. The owner will face a $500 fine or up to one year in prison.

In Georgia, however, the law is not so clear.

“Some ambiguity in the law has made prosecution somewhat difficult,” said Mike Ayers, Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge of the Augusta region. “Unless we can prove they are paying out cash.”

One new practice authorities are seeing in Richmond County is the use of “Internet cafes” as gaming centers, he said.

A store will market itself as an office supply business and fill it with computers hooked up to the Internet. When customers come in, they pay for the Internet. On the desktop will be an icon for online poker or other gambling game. At the end of the Internet session, the customers can take their credits to the counter for cash or other prizes.

Elwell said he had not heard of this development in Aiken.

Ayers said Richmond County has gaming devices all over the city, but public opinion on their danger is divided.

“We usually have about half the community behind it and half against,” he said.

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noway 04/22/12 - 08:13 pm
What is wrong with the

What is wrong with the headline on the front page?? "Gaming statute heayd appliedyyyyyyy" Come on Chronicle!!! Pay attention!

Connor Threlkeld
Connor Threlkeld 04/22/12 - 09:00 pm
Sorry noway, the gibberish

Sorry noway, the gibberish you saw was a dummy headline written by the page designer. When the designer puts a story on a page, a dummy headline is written in the headline size and style so the copy editor writing the headline knows the specs to work with to make it fit for print. The designer uses some of the key words to make sure a headline will likely fit, but uses words like "heady" (the "y" is used to check for proper spacing between lines) to make it clear that it needs to be edited. If the story is sent online before the headline is rewritten, something like what you saw will appear.

DuhJudge 04/23/12 - 06:50 am
Problem is retailers that

Problem is retailers that follow the law have to fight for your business with competitors that don't. Take their alcohol and lottery licenses for a year if they offer gaming machines or else make them legal. So many politicians are paid to leave it alone its not funny.

JRC2024 04/23/12 - 09:33 am
If you want to gamble with

If you want to gamble with your money it is alright with me. Just do not go to the food stamp or welfare line because the odds are always stacked against you. The house always wins.

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