Alleged Illegal Gaming Crackdown

Seven Lauderdale County businesses were simultaneously raided Friday as part of a crackdown on alleged illegal gaming.

"They recovered 30 illegal poker machines or pull tab machines. Over $7,457.36 was seized," said Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie.

This was part of an investigation that took place over the last several months by local authorities and state gaming officials. Officials said it was prompted by complaints from residents.

Although no arrests were made, investigators say felony and misdemeanor charges could be filed against the business owners.

"The first offense is a misdemeanor charge," said special agent Robert Sharp with the Mississippi Gaming Commission. "The second offense on possession of an illegal gambling machine is a felony, which could mean up to two years in the state penitentiary."

The owners of the machines are not the only ones who risk jail time. If caught, investigators say users could also face up to six months behind bars. It's just more proof of why they say this is a serious offense.

"First of all, you generate no taxable income," said Sharp. "The people who are playing these machines are usually your elderly who are drawing their social security checks or they're on assistance of some kind and the return rate on these machines is about 50%.

Officials warned other violators to beware.

"It's just like a stop sign. We can't catch everyone that runs a stop sign. Well, we certainly can't catch everyone who operates an illegal gambling machine, but who knows? You may be next," said Sheriff Sollie.