HOUSE FOLDS -- Deputies seize video gaming machines

By THOMAS BROWN, T&D Staff WriterThursday, February 09, 2006
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s deputies have seized almost 30 video gaming machines that they say were used for illegal gambling.The first seizure occurred last month, when eight machines were taken from an Ulmer Street residence.Deputies began their investigation after a concerned citizen complained of suspicious activity on Ulmer Street. After approximately two weeks of investigation, deputies seized the machines and charged James D. Cleckley, 53, of 1123 Deer Crossing Road, with unlawful games and betting, Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Clark Whetstone said.“The Ulmer Street location was a gambling house,” Whetstone said. “He had different bedrooms set up as gaming rooms. He had locations for people to smoke while they were gambling and places for nonsmokers.” Snack cakes were also sold at the location.Whetstone said the operation worked on a 70/30 split, with the house taking 30 percent of the money and giving 70 percent out in winnings.Deputies, acting with agents from the State Law Enforcement Division, seized an additional 21 machines from five other locations in Orangeburg County this month. Whetstone declined to give more information on the other locations because “this investigation is currently ongoing and being researched for further applicable laws in the case,” he said.The state Legislature voted in 1999 to end video poker on July 1, 2000, while giving voters an opportunity to keep the machines legal in a referendum. A month before the vote, the state Supreme Court ruled the referendum was unconstitutional but left the ban in place.The plug was pulled on more than 22,000 video gambling machines in the state. Experts called it the largest shutdown of legalized gambling in U.S. history.“When video poker was legal, a lot of people got hooked on it,” Whetstone said. “I’m sure a number of those people found their way to these locations. And we encourage our citizens to be involved and report any suspected criminal activity to law enforcement or Crime Stoppers at 888-832-7463.”Whetstone said the machines seized in the sweep, which include table top and floor models, will be destroyed after the cases go to trial.
T&D Staff Writer Thomas Brown can be reached by e-mail at tbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5532.

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