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County expects to charge 17 in raid

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Juen 6, 2002
Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department officials said Wednesday they could charge as many as 17 people with owning illegal gambling machines seized in a raid the day before.
Maj. Ward Calhoun said the department is preparing affidavits and warrants for the owners of 111 illegal gaming machines taken from 19 Meridian and Lauderdale County businesses.
Officers with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, the Mississippi Gaming Commission and the East Mississippi Drug Task Force raided the businesses Tuesday after a 21/2 month investigation.
Games seized were video slot machines, video poker machines and similar games of chance. Officers originally targeted 21 businesses in the raid.
One of the first ones they entered, Sportsman's Bar &Lounge on 2407 Fifth St. in Meridian, had no illegal devices. Another business on the list in Meridian was closed when the raids occurred.
Calhoun said the owners of the gambling machines will face misdemeanor charges. He said each owner of the machines will be charged with one count regardless of the number of machines they had.
A first offense for owning an illegal gambling device is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine. A subsequent conviction for owning an illegal gaming device is a felony offense.
Calhoun said anyone with prior convictions of owning illegal gaming devices will be presented to the Lauderdale County grand jury.
Calhoun said that the Meridian Police Department was aware of the investigation. Some MPD officers were involved in the investigation as members of the East Mississippi Drug Task Force.
Sonny Dyer, special agent with the criminal investigations division of the Gaming Commission, said authorities look for three elements in determining if a machine is an illegal gambling device.
He said players must insert money, the game must be predominantly one of chance and the player must receive something of value.