Originally created 08/10/00

Official vows poker crackdown



The video poker industry will have to find another route into Georgia.

"You might want to try it in McDuffie County or Jefferson County, but don't try it here," District Attorney Danny Craig said. "I'm only district attorney in three counties (Richmond, Columbia and Burke) but we are not going to have it in those three counties."

For the first time since video poker was unplugged in South Carolina in July, Mr. Craig weighed in on the issue during a public meeting in Columbia County on Wednesday afternoon.

"The machines are illegal in Georgia," he said, promising he'll begin taking police officers into establishments that have the machines and confiscating them as soon as possible. "I intend to take it one establishment at the time. .ƒ.ƒ. My message is simple: `If you have the machines, get them out of here. Get them out of here today as quickly as you can because we intend to seize and destroy them.'ƒ"

Mr. Craig said it's illegal to store the machines in Georgia. And, he said, any business owner that is awarding Wal-Mart gift certificates - or any other certificate for off-site redemption - is violating state law.

Dana Mills - who has about 20 machines at her collectables store on Bobby Jones Expressway - has been awarding the gift certificates, but said she'll stop.

"I've got to figure out something else," she said.

However, she plans to keep her machines. There are some machines that have been OK'd by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and those can stay in Georgia, including some versions of machines called 2-in-1 and Cherry Masters. Other versions of the Cherry Masters machines - ones that had not been modified for Georgia use - were confiscated last month by deputies in Richmond County.

So far, Columbia County has received four completed applications for businesses involving video poker machines, and 10 others have expressed interest in locating in the county. In Richmond County, commissioners have denied a couple of applications for video licenses, and officers have confiscated illegal machines from various locations. Since late June, city leaders have been working on a video poker ordinance.

Columbia County has an ordinance prohibiting the machines in places that have on-site consumption of alcohol - deputies began checking those places this week. But there's no other law on the books, and that's something commissioner plan to discuss at their meeting Tuesday.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.