published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Dade County officials target illegal gambling

  • photo
    Former Dade County Sheriff Patrick Cannon
    Photo by Matthew S.L. Cate

TRENTON, Ga. -- Dade County officials are considering a new ordinance to crack down on businesses that offer illegal gambling.

The ordinance was drafted after law officers cited an uptick in game rooms that offer cash prizes or prepaid credit cards as prizes on their machines -- which is illegal in Georgia.

Sheriff Patrick Cannon said there are at least three businesses in the area with suspicious operations.

But he said the state law has loopholes to regulate these businesses and the ordinance clearly will define what is illegal.

"Until the legislators are able to come up with a solution and enact a law that covers the whole thing with no loopholes, this will prevent [illegal gambling]," Cannon said.

If passed, the ordinance will regulate how many coin-operated machines a game room can offer, require businesses to keep records available for inspection and require owners to post signs warning it is illegal to receive cash prizes or a single prize that is valued more than $5.

Regulating these game rooms will fall under the county's Alcohol Beverage Control Board, authorities said.

The proposed ordinance was given to the commissioners at Thursday night's meeting and likely will be voted on next month, said County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley.

The ordinance mirrors those in areas like Rossville and DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, Cannon said.

Rumley said the ordinance would deal with both businesses operating illegally and the use of illegally operated coin-machines.

Several commissioners noted the current state law is confusing because bingo and the lottery are legal, but using machines to win cash is not.

Some of the suspicious gambling machines in the county are showing up at Internet cafes, Cannon said.

Investigating suspicious gambling cites is cumbersome and requires undercover investigations, he said. Also if the gambling machines have to be confiscated, the sheriff's office has to find a place for storage.

Under the new ordinance, owners caught operating illegally would have their license suspended for a year in addition to any state charges. A third offense would revoke the owner's license.

Also the ordinance would allow the county's magistrate court to impose a $250 fine on anyone convicted of receiving money as a reward on a coin-operated machine or sweepstake device.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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