Laurinburg police issued what they say is a final warning to a business allegedly operating video sweepstakes machines in violation of a statewide ban.
Responding to a tip, police entered the Aberdeen Road Laundry Express at around 4:45 p.m. Friday to find people seated at all four of the laundry’s machines.
Upon entering interim Chief Kimothy Monroe, who was joined by Sgt. Chris Strickland, spoke with Wanda Wright, an employee at the business. Monroe instructed Wright to disconnect the machines and asked to speak the laundry’s owners, Chad Faircloth and Jerry Nance.
“(The owner) said that he was told that the machine ban had been lifted. He was misinformed,” Monroe said.
According to a statement issued by the police department after Friday’s visit, the owners agreed to remove the machines. The owners, who are said to be based in Elizabethown, could not be reached for comment.
Chief Monroe told both of the owners that this would be their last warning.
“This is the final warning. Next time I assured the representatives that we will make arrests.”
If the business is found to be in violation of video gambling laws again, the machines will be seized by the police as well as the money they contain, Monroe said.
“And we would arrest whoever was operating the business at the time,” the chief said, clarifying that an on-duty manager or staff member could be arrested.
According to Monroe, the machines in the Laundry Express would have been illegal with or without the legislation banning Internet sweepstakes machines.
“The machines in the washerette would have been illegal anyway because they are free-standing machines which operate under a totally different program than the Internet sweepstakes,” Monroe said.
This is not the first time that the Laundry Express has been warned about operating illicit gambling machines.
About two weeks ago Strickland said that he delivered a warning to the business.
“We actually came to this business and issued a warning. Those machines in there now weren’t there at the time. There were two over on the (opposite) side of the business.”
Monroe and Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones met with officials at the county District Attorney’s office in January to be informed how to enforce the law banning Internet sweepstakes machines. That meeting came on the heels December’s ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court to uphold the 2010 statute outlawing the machines.
A loophole in the 2007 law prohibiting video poker machines in North Carolina resulted in the proliferation of the profitable sweepstakes parlors and Internet cafes throughout the state.
Monroe thanked the public tipsters that informed his department of the misdeeds and invited similar cooperation in the future.
“I appreciate the public informing us about these illegal gambling operations. This is how we are able to find out about these activities and stop them.”
After having given what Monroe said was “adequate notice to all businesses with gambling machines and done everything possible to allow for the transition,” the chief said that he will now do everything he can to stop crime in Laurinburg.