Arcade subject of undercover operation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – A day-long undercover investigation by Demopolis police and gaming experts contracted by the state’s Attorney General has resulted in a Friday night raid.

Plaza Game Room, LLC was shut down about 7:45 p.m. Friday when officers conducted the raid. Patrons in the establishment were allowed to leave the game room in a single-file line after being searched by officers. No arrests have been made.

They were not allowed to collect their unpaid winnings and bets – or “credits” – on the machines.

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“It’s illegal because the law says it’s illegal and we have an expert in to say it’s illegal,” said Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel. “We allow nothing in our community that’s illegal. We realize it’s entertainment for a lot of people but it’s against the law.”

Bob Sertell is chairman of the New Jersey-based Casino Horizons Corp. and is the state’s primary expert when it comes to legal and illegal gaming.

He was brought in after a request from District Attorney Greg Griggers to Attorney General Troy King was approved, Manuel said.

“If the undercover look reveals [illegal devices], a search warrant is obtained and executed,” Sertell said.

Once the search warrant is executed, police and Sertell move in to catalog the machine types, using a computer analysis to provide a positive identification. The team also preserves evidence, Sertell said.

“The video gaming devices are the same type as those seized in Demopolis on May 30 of last year from two sources,” he said. “When we examined those this morning, we found they are virtually identical to the [the machines at the Plaza].”

Of those in play at the Plaza Game Room at the time of the raid, about $382.05 was in play on the

aracade’s 47 machines.

Those amounts were cataloged and cleared from the machines.

“These machines net about $300 per machine per day in other Alabama cases,” Sertell said.

What makes the games illegal is that chance, rather than skill, determines play.

“For these machines, if it were not for the pay off, they would be a commercial disaster in any children’s arcade,” Sertell said.

Diane Cleveland, owner of the arcade, told police the machines were owned by Old South Entertainment, Inc. of Atlanta and leased by her company.

Manuel said the machines would be left on the premises until Old South could come remove them. The arcade will be closed until that time.