Law enforcement officials said they have seen an increase in video gambling machines in the county over the past six months. Snyder estimated there were more than 100 illegal machines in the county.
He and other officials spoke of receiving calls from store owners wondering if the machines were legal, as well as from people who have lost extensively on the games. One person who called Snyder said he lost $4,000.
Video courtesy of WCNC
He said vendors have been trying to confuse shop owners by claiming the machines are legal because of lawsuits and restraining orders involving machines elsewhere in North Carolina. But such orders do not apply in counties other than where the orders were issued.
Store owners may be tempted to offer the games to make money in a tough economy, but Snyder expects most owners will cooperate. He called two weeks a reasonable amount of time for the machines to be removed.
Authorities will go to the stores after that period to see if the machines are still there. Most machines are in gas station convenience stores, according to Snyder.
Here’s how illegal video gambling often works in the county, according to Snyder:
Customers give a cashier money to play the machine. Any winnings from the machine are printed out on a receipt and then paid by the cashier.
Customers also get a printed receipt with a number on it for prepaid phone minutes. But Snyder said the phone card has nothing to do with the game and does not help the game get around state gambling laws as a type of sweepstakes promotion.
“The law is clear: These machines are not legal,” Snyder said. Video poker was fully phased out by the state in 2007, and last December, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld a statewide ban on video poker.
“It’s not good for the community. It’s not good for the county.”
John Snyder – Union County District Attorney
When asked where the machines were in Union County, Snyder replied: “All over.”
That includes two machines in the On the Road gas station and convenience store near Snyder’s office in Monroe.
Owner Emad Fahmy said he has had the machines for about half a year, and the vendor told him they were legal.
He didn’t see much difference between the machines and the lottery tickets he sells, other than the machines aren’t taxed.
“I’ll get rid of them if I can’t have them here legally. But they’re a good source of income in a recession,” Fahmy said.
“For me, they’re not my only source of income. But I think it’s really a stupid decision. Some business owners will have to close down if that’s all they have.”
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