Authorities have shut down two gaming parlors as part of a raid on those that have continued to participate in illegal sweepstakes gambling.
The dual busts were made by sheriff”s offices in Scotland and Hoke counties and included more than a dozen people from Laurinburg and McColl, S.C. who were charged or cited.
Robert Haux, 75, of 17460 McFarland Road, was charged on Friday with a felony for his role as an owner of a gambling facility housed inside an outbuilding near his home.Frankie McKeithan, 57, of 616 Washington St., manager of the McFarland Road parlor, was also charged with a felony for operating more than five game machines. Haux and McKeithan were each placed under a $5,000 secured bond.
Simultaneously on Friday afternoon, law enforcement raided the Carolina Cyber Center on U.S. 401 South, where manager Christy Gainey, 21, of McColl was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. Gainey was placed under a $750 secured bond. Charges against owner Robert Outlaw of McColl are pending.
Other than Haux, the other residents of the McFarland Road address were not charged for involvement in the sweepstakes business.
“Even though I could argue they knew what was going on, during the investigation, I couldn’t link them,” said Investigator Earl Haywood of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. “The two that were charged were very, very well documented.”
Officially prohibited in February, many gambling facilities in the county continued to operate until given explicit warnings by law enforcement.
Sheriff Shep Jones said that the two parlors shut down on Friday initially closed when warned in February, but since reopened and attempted to operate under the radar.
“We gave them warnings and everything like that, but some folks just continue to do it,” Jones said. “They feel like they’ve got software that’s legal, but actually it’s not.”
During a two-month investigation using undercover personnel, the sheriff’s office was able to determine that both facilities were operating illegally. Though the 2010 law prohibiting video sweepstakes was upheld by the state Supreme Court in December, certain software was allowed until February. A bill currently in the state House of Representatives, H.B. 547, could legalize and regulate video sweepstakes, but that has not yet come to pass.
“It goes back to that ruling that the Supreme Court issued in December of last year that any and all Internet-based video gaming, whether it be slot-style machines or anything of that nature, is illegal,” said Haywood. “A lot of people think that they can go ahead and start doing their stuff, hoping it gets passed, but until a bill is passed, it’s illegal. Now they know.”
Some $60,000 was seized from the McFarland Road parlor, with $900 found at Carolina Cyber Center. Jones said that the latter operation was likely removing cash from the premises daily.
A total of 12 people, eight at Carolina Cyber Center and four at McFarland Road, were found patronizing the two businesses when authorities entered. All 12, five from South Carolina, were cited.
“Today’s the day you get to walk out of here,” Haywood said. “If I catch you at another one of these, I promise on my job you will be going to jail.”