SLED Agents Seized Over 700 Illegal Gambling Machines from Warehouse
On Sunday morning, August 11th, Swansea police and firefighters responded to a call about water leaking from a warehouse, and the smell of smoke. When they entered the building, which had been a sewing plant in the 1960’s, officers discovered more than 700 illegal gambling machines.
On Tuesday, August 13th, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) officers executed a warrant officially declaring the machines illegal, and seized 750 illegal gambling machines from two separate rooms.
“This is a very sizeable seizure,” said State Law Enforcement Division Spokesman Thom Berry. “This is the largest of this particular type that we have had in the state.”
Reportedly, there was some effort to disguise the illegal gambling machines as sweepstakes machines.
“They may have started out as a Pot of Gold machine, and a sticker would be placed over the front that would create a sweepstakes machine,” Berry said. “So that would be part of the activities that might be going on.”
Investigators believe the warehouse collected the illegal gambling machines to refurbish them. Some machines were being upgraded into sweepstakes machines, which are considered illegal gambling devices in South Carolina but not in other states. Some machines were being built from scratch, according to investigators, who found boxes of components stacked on the floor.
“These are all types of gaming machines that are in various states of operability,” said Berry. “Some are in the process of being rebuilt and converted. There are some shells of machines that are being manufactured and some old machines, including a couple of old ‘one-armed bandits,’ as they are referred to.”
The warehouse is currently owned by a company called GLR LLC, which owned and operated the 1960’s sewing plant. In June, a business license was applied for and received by a company called Swansea Bonded Storage, which operates out of the building.
The machines appear to come from different states and businesses, including from Florida, Alabama, and Texas, which could make the illegal gambling machine seizure a federal matter. So far, however, there have been no arrests in the case.
SLED and the South Carolina Attorney General’s office are investigating.
Video Poker and Illegal Gambling Machine Controversy in South Carolina
South Carolina began cracking down on wide-spread video poker operations in 1999, when lawmakers passed a bill that defined all video poker and some sweepstakes machines as illegal gambling. For a few years, gambling operations disappeared. However, some operators found a loophole in the law, which allowed for a boom in sweepstakes machines.
Sweepstakes machines sell small items, like phone cards, which in itself is not gambling. However, when a customer purchases an item from a sweepstakes machine, they also have a chance to win prizes at the machine.
Legally, sweepstakes machines fell into a grey area – police could raid establishments that operated sweepstakes machines, but a county judge would have to formally decide whether or not the machines fell within video poker laws and were therefore illegal gambling devices. More often than not, judges would agree with law enforcement, but occasionally there were disputes.
The new law specifically states that sweepstakes machines are illegal gambling devices.
Opponents of the bill say that sweepstakes machines are not the same as video poker machines, and are actually more like perfectly legal sweepstakes offerings like McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes. They also point out that the state of South Carolina currently runs a lottery, which specifically raises money for education. If sweepstakes machines become illegal, then the state will have a monopoly on gambling.
Proponents of the bill say that clearing up the legislation will help save communities that are hurt by illegal gambling. They claim that, before the legislation that outlawed video gambling, owners of the machines paid lobbyists, which corrupted local governments and law enforcement.
The Strom Law Firm Prosecutes Operators of Illegal Gambling Machines
The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have experience with illegal gambling cases and is investigating cases for people who have been harmed by illegal gambling in the State of South Carolina. We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. To have a lawyer evaluate your case, please call us at 803.252.4800. Do not let illegal gambling charges ruin your future.