Arcades busted paying cash

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 2, 2003

Three months ago, District Attorney Greg Griggers issued an order to arcade owners in Marengo County: If you’re caught paying cash prizes, you’re done.

Two arcades in Demopolis and two arcades in Linden are done, thanks in large part to a disgruntled player who didn’t get paid when she won.

Friday, at around 2 a.m., Demopolis and Linden police joined together for a county-wide raid that helped net approximately 150 video gambling machines and $30,000 in cash.

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When Griggers took office at the beginning of this year, one of his first major moves as district attorney was to find some sort of resolution to the video gambling establishments in his district &045;&045; which also includes Sumter and Greene counties. He found an appellate court ruling that said gambling and paying cash prizes is illegal and he soon issued his order to arcade owners.

In fact, Griggers wasn’t sure how illegal activities at the arcades could be discovered. Ed Greene, district attorney for Hale, Perry, Wilcox and Dallas counties eventually had to call on the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to come in and help set up a sting to bring the arcade owners down.

Griggers didn’t have to go that far, and it apparently happened because one of the arcades didn’t pay a winner what she had won.

For the sake of protection, the person’s name who helped police catch the arcades in the act of paying out in cash could not be released. However, Griggers and Demopolis Police Chief Charles Avery indicated that the subject was given cash from both the Linden and Demopolis Police departments and then went into all four establishments and played until she won.

When the subject won, she was paid in cash, which gave local law enforcement and Griggers enough evidence to close Silver Dollar and Lucky Strike in Demopolis and Big Bee and Lucky Spin in Linden.

Though having a "mole" helped Griggers close down the arcades, both the Demopolis and Linden police departments carried out the sting early Friday morning, seizing the game machines and more than $30,000 in cash.

Along with Avery, Det. Sgt. Tim Soronen helped lead the investigation on the Demopolis end. Working with Soronen were Tim Williams and Officers Tracy Desmond, Leslie Hines and Paul Foster.

For Public Safety Director Jeff Laduron in Linden, Sgt. Scott McClure and Officers Aaron Malone and Dexter Watters assisted in the Friday morning bust.

As for the money that was seized, Griggers said the state of Alabama will get the money, though he hopes the state will help re-invest that money into the Marengo County economy and police departments.

The video arcade machines are another issue. Right now, Griggers said he has two options: He can sell the machines or he can destroy them all. Those machines, valued at thousands of dollars each, could be sold to locations far away from Alabama. However, Griggers said he is leaning toward destroying them.

No arrests were made in the sting on Friday. However, police issued misdemeanor citations to Danny Blair for promoting gambling and possession of gambling devices. He received citations in both Demopolis and Linden.

Clara Overstreet, a clerk at Silver Dollar, was issued a citation for simple gambling and Susan Hawkins was issued a citation for the same offense in Linden.

Avery said all citations will be heard in municipal court. However, Griggers has the option prosecuting all of them in district court.

Regardless of how the gambling busts are prosecuted, Griggers had a stern warning for other video arcades in Sumter and Greene counties.