Four Statesboro area convenience stores were targeted Thursday in a gambling sting conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Commercial Gambling Unit.
The store operators are accused of paying out cash to customers who win while playing on the “Coin Operated Amusement Machines,” usually located in a back room of the store. Cash payouts are illegal, said Cindy H. Ledford, special agent-in-charge of the GBI’s Commercial Gambling Unit.
The stores raided Thursday were the Amoco BP Food Store, 218 North Main Street; the Quick Shop, 301 North Main Street; Maruti Food & Gas, LLC, 17899 US Hwy. 301North; and Vraj Food Mart #1, 21196 Hwy. 80 East.
Complaints from the public led GBI agents, assisted by the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office Crime Suppression Team, to investigate the stores, she said.
In cooperation with the Georgia Lottery Corporation and the Georgia Department of Revenue, GBI agents executed search warrants at the stores for violations of Georgia’s commercial gambling laws, she said.
“While searching the locations, agents collected evidence related to crimes of commercial gambling and seized monetary assets gained from the illegal use of gaming machines,” Ledford said.
Georgia law dictates that only store credit or lottery tickets may be awarded for winning games. These stores are currently licensed to operate the “COAM,” (Coin Operated Amusement Machines), but the machines will be removed from the stores and the Georgia Lottery Commission will determine whether the machines, owned by an outside company, will be returned to that owner, she said.
GBI agents anticipate multiple arrests, but “arrests take time” to process and names of violators were not immediately available Thursday morning.
More than 25 agents and law enforcement officers conducted the raids at all four stores at the same time “in a simultaneous and coordinated fashion,” Ledford said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.