Sunday, June 1, 2008

Video gambling probes taper off

ASHEVILLE NC– Investigations into illegal video gambling have been rare in Western North Carolina since the poker machines were outlawed in July, law enforcement officials said.
But enforcement operations still exist, authorities said.

“We’ve made several charges since they were banned, and confiscated several of the old machines since July,” Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan said.
But illegal video gambling enforcement remains a priority for his department, Duncan said. “Because of the history, yes, when we get a call, we address those things.”
The Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency seized hundreds of machines in cases against distributors and law enforcement officials like former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford, who was convicted in federal court Thursday on charges related to extortion, money laundering and illegal gambling.
Medford and former volunteer Capt. Guy Kenneth Penland face up to 170 years in prison when sentencing is done in four-six weeks.
No machines have been seized in Macon County since the ban took effect, Sheriff Robbie Holland said.
The Macon Sheriff’s Office launched a five-month undercover investigation in 2006 that led to the seizure of 19 machines and $10,000 in illegal payouts.
“We haven’t received any complaints about any additional ones being utilized or operated,” Holland said.
But responding to complaints of illegal gambling machines would still get priority, Holland said.
ALE agents estimate they’ve seized about 10 machines since they were driven underground by the ban.
“They’ve not been from any distributor. They’ve primarily been from private individuals who apparently bought the machines from a distributor prior to July,” said Alan Page, ALE supervisor for the agency’s western district in Asheville.
The agency continues to investigate tips of illegal video gambling, but those have been infrequent.