JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) -- Officers descended on two Jefferson County businesses last Friday night, seizing the computers of nearly 100 gambling machines.
Illegal gambling has historically been a problem in Jefferson County. These bold business owners are operating out in the open. To try to quell these people and their patrons, Jefferson County and Pine Bluff police have started using a couple of different tactics, hoping to cash out these businesses for good.
Late Friday night, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and Pine Bluff police raided two illegal gambling halls and arrested twenty four people for both operating, and for the first time, gambling at those businesses.
"We hope that this kind of opens up the eyes of patrons who are looking to patronize these establishments. Not only punish the actual owner, who are running these operations, but also the patrons patronizing them. They know it’s illegal when they go in to patronize these places, and the owners and operators know it’s illegal when they open them up,” said Major Lafayette Woods of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2013, law enforcement raided 15 locations and ended up with more than 700 gambling machines. They're still storing more than 400 of those; a logistical and financial nightmare.
"We are right at about $20,000 almost in storage that we've had to pay from 2013 to present,” Woods told THV11 as he overlooked the machines, currently being stored in a safe location.
Instead of allowing the gambling machines to continue to stack up, law enforcement decided to cut out the mother boards, which basically act like the brain of the machine. Without them, they're inoperable.
"You cut the snake off at the head. If you don't have the patrons that are patronizing places, then the owners and operators don't have any business coming in. There's not a market for it, so you cut the need for it off, you don't have a business, you can't operate,” Woods said.
The Lonoke County Sheriff's Office and England PD conducted a raid of their own Wednesday. They confiscated six gaming machines and over $4,000 in cash. Both departments said these raids are part of an ongoing effort. If other businesses are found to have the machines, they too should expect to be raided.