In a small town close to the Florida state line on Interstate 75, a group of people has been arrested for illegal gambling.
It is estimated that over the course of the last five years, the group has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars in gaming revenue. The seven people were able to post bond. These arrests, however, are indicative of the problems Georgia is having with illegal gaming in small towns and large cities throughout the state.
The raid was part of a large operation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Commercial Gambling Unit, the Mid-South Narcotics Task Force, the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office, the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, the Georgia Lottery Corporation, and the Georgia Department of Revenue. The investigation began with a tip from a community member who had been in one of the establishments and saw a patron receive cash as a payout from a video gaming machine. Seven people, including employees and owners of the establishments in Cordele, Ga., were arrested and charged with felony commercial gambling.
The places raided included two convenience stores, two homes that served as fronts for illegal video poker machines, a bait and tackle store, and a sports bar.
Cordele, which is located in Crisp County and is close to the Florida state line, is in one of the poorest areas of Georgia. Of the 11,000 residents who live in the area, more than 42 percent of the citizens are living under the poverty level. The majority of people employed in the area work in the service or retail sectors, with others working in the education, manufacturing, or agricultural sectors. Because the town sits along Interstate 75, which is a major North-South highway, many businesses have sprung up to cater to truck drivers. Authorities suspect the truck drivers, as well as local citizens, were the major targets of the illegal gaming industry. The sheriff noted that of the places that were raided, most of them were on the same road.
Gaming in Georgia
While many Southern states have some form of gambling that is legal, Georgia has remained one state that does not have gambling, for the most part. While states close to Georgia, including North Carolina and Alabama, have a form of legal casino gaming (nearly all casino gaming in the area is tribal gaming), Georgia has steadfastly rejected the notion that it should legalize gaming. At present, the only form of gaming that has monetary payouts and is allowed in the Peach State is the Georgia Lottery. Georgia offers several different types of lottery games, including scratch-offs and multistate lotteries, such as Powerball and Mega Millions. The state also allows bingo and other table games as long as the proceeds go to charity.
While there are gaming machines in Georgia where citizens can play video poker, the payouts must be in credits rather than cash. The credits can be exchanged for store merchandise, as well as for lottery tickets for scratch-offs, but it is illegal to exchange winning credits for cash. In the past, many convenience stores and bars in Georgia, especially in small towns, have been raided because they were paying their winners in cash rather than credits. Small towns are much less likely to receive visits from regulatory agencies than larger cities. However, raids have also been done sporadically in larger cities in the state, such as Atlanta, in the Lake Lanier area—which is located near the larger city of Gainesville, Fla., and just to the south of Chattanooga, which is along the Tennessee-Georgia state line.
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