Illegal gambling: Police seize video machines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Three separate illegal gambling operations were taken down simultaneously Wednesday in Selma, as police made five arrests and seized 17 video gaming machines.

A sixth person is wanted by authorities, who police said ran an illegal gambling and bootleg liquor operation. Selma Police Chief Jimmy Martin said this type of activity won’t be tolerated.

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“We’re not going to allow illegal gambling and alcohol in the City of Selma,” Martin said. “If you are, we’re coming to get you.”

The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that video “sweepstakes machines,” or machines which build points, to be illegal. Police said the Selma business operators were transforming points through an equation and paying out cash, which is illegal. Attorneys representing gaming operators in Alabama have filed for a rehearing.

Police don’t know exactly how long the operations have been in existence, but once they were discovered confidential informants were sent inside with marked money to take part. When members of the SPD Special Response Team arrived they went in to haul the machines off and make arrests.

Martin said they coordinated the busts earlier, making sure no one had the opportunity to move the machines, each valued at approximately $8,000 each.

There were five machines seized at the Lawrence St. Grocery, 1432 Lawrence St. Marcus Hopkins, 53, was arrested and charged with five counts of possession of gaming devices, and one count of promoting gaming. He was jailed on $3,000 bond.

Six gaming machines were seized at The Variety Shop, 605 L.L. Anderson Ave., and two arrests were made. Joe Ford, 62, and Gidget Lewis, 45, were each charged with six counts of possession of gambling devices, and six counts of promoting gambling. They were both jailed on $6,000 bond.

The third location was a residence at 1301 Tremont St., at Griffin Avenue, where police said the house contained a mirrored disco ball, hanging from the ceiling. There were six gaming machines seized and two arrests made. Police said the homeowner, Ralph Jones, is wanted by authorities.

Arrested were Corey Horton, 23, charged with six counts of conspiracy to promote gambling; and Georgia Carter, 36, charged with six counts of promoting gambling. Police also seized a grocery cart filled with iced beer and a variety of alcohol, which was sold without a license.

Each of the machines were padlocked and believed to contain cash. The cash will be inventoried and police said they planned to begin the condemnation process on the machines and their contents.