WJTV News Channel 12 - Update: Havelock Police raid sweepstakes/gaming establishments

Update: Havelock Police raid sweepstakes/gaming establishments

Posted: Updated:
HAVELOCK, N.C. - A day after police and deputies raided nine businesses and took their sweepstakes gaming machines, business owners in Havelock are left wondering how to get their machines and money back.

"If it’s illegal, why did they take our money,” one business owner asked, adding, “$28,000 in July."

That was the question on several Havelock business owner’s minds on Friday. After Havelock Police and the Craven County Sheriffs Office took more than 300 items from their stores on Thursday.

Greg Muse doesn't own a store, but owns several of the internet sweepstakes game machines taken by investigators.
 
"They had a city meeting in Havelock saying we won’t bother you. We will allow you to open back up, charge you a license fee, hefty license fee per machine, and open up. Then two months later they conducted a raid. It's just bizarre," said Muse, Craven Music Company.

So 9 On Your Side e-mailed, called, and went to the City of Havelock to try and find out what happens to the tens of thousands of dollars paid to them in gaming machine license taxes. No one would talk to 9 On Your Side on camera, but the city manager says the businesses will not be getting their money back. 9 On Your Side asked why, but no one was allowed to comment since it’s an ongoing investigation.

9 On Your Side did talk to District Attorney Scott Thomas. He says he can't comment on this case in particular, but says the business owners could face misdemeanor charges. Thomas says so far no official charges have been filed. Thomas went on to add in his three counties, Craven County is the only one so far seeking possible charges for these gaming machines.

--- Original Story ---

Nine Havelock businesses were served with search warrants for having illegal gaming and sweepstakes machines.

On Thursday, Havelock Police along with the Craven County Sheriff's Office entered internet cafes, bars, and convenience stores and took their sweepstakes gaming machines.

Jean's Place owner, Jean Bergman, says she received a call from the police department warning her they would be coming to take store's three games.

"They say the city says you can have them, the state says you can't," said Bergman.

One internet cafe owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, says police called her early this morning asking her to open her store because they were investigating a breaking and entering. She says when she showed up police said they were there to take her gaming machines.

"They just ripped the kiosk off the wall and damaged where the kiosk was. They didn't take time to take it down they ripped it off. They took everything. Even the soda money," said the owner.

Investigators seized over 300 pieces of evidence related to illegal sweepstakes/gaming operations, U.S. currency, and other items. They actually removed evidence from Ben’s Beach Bingo after spotting suspected sweepstakes/gaming machines in plain view.

Thursday's seizure comes after an 11-month investigation into these sweepstakes and gaming establishments.

Places targeted in the operation include:

Internet Connections-1329 East Main Street,

 B&B Internet Access-925 East Main Street, Suite 38,

 U. S. Mini Mart-221 East Main Street,

 Food Fare-227 West Main Street,

Mr. P’s Sweepstakes-900 US HWY 70 West,

Jean’s Place-330 East Main Street,

Super Expressway-807 East Main Street   

These aren't the only businesses where machines have been confiscated by police. Last month, they executed a search warrant at Friend’s Bar-571, where they seized 2 gaming machines, U.S. currency, and items associated with sweepstakes/gaming operations.

9 On Your Side talked to several business owners who are left wondering why the city still allowed them to purchase new gaming machines licenses as late as three weeks ago if police were just going to take the machines.

"One machine we just got like three weeks ago. So, I went down there, got a license. They could have said don't bother getting the license since it's illegal, but no they didn't do that," said Bergman.

"We paid them $28,000. They did the same thing to us last year. We paid them $28,000 then they shut us down in December. [In June] We were at a town hall, when the commissioner, and the attorney of Havelock told us to go ahead and open up. If we got shut down it would be the state doing it." said one business owner.

For now the businesses are wondering if this is a permanent seizure, or  a temporary one like the previous shutdown in December. 

There were no arrests made on Thursday, but individual charges are pending.

9 On Your Side will keep you updated on the outcome of this situation.


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