By Patrick Yost editor

Cash and “coin operated amusement machines” were seized from five Morgan County convenience stores and a pool hall last week and the owners of the establishments were arrested. In a coordinated raid between the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Commercial Gambling Unit, the Madison Police Department, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Morgan County Code Enforcement, the establishments were all targeted for a 5 p.m. search.

According to Det. Wes Thompson, Madison Police Department, the department had received several complaints alleging that electronic slot and poker machines in the stores were giving customers cash pay–outs. According to Georgia law, credits won by playing the games can only be redeemed for store merchandise or lottery tickets.

Thompson said a four–month investigation into the practices of the stores led to the execution of six search warrants. More than 20 coin operated amusement machines were confiscated from the six locations and more than $20,000 in cash was confiscated.

So far, according to a press release by the GBI, four individuals have been arrested and charged with felony commercial gambling violations. Arrested were Amit Patel, 32, Conyers, P&J Mini Mart, East Washington and Shell Food Mart, Eatonton Highway; Chandra Sangam, 41, Greensboro, Pit Stop, Seven Islands Road, Buckhead; Chevron, Eatonton Highway; Jaywinkumar Patel, 32, Conyers, Petro Convenience store, Confederate Road and Sameer Qurashi, 41, Madison, Pinky’s Pool Hall, Eatonton Highway.

The investigation involved authorities using “confidential sources” to play the machines and attempt to get cash pay–outs. Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley said his department had been questioned in the past regarding illegal use of the machines. “I’ve had citizens come in and tell me their relatives are addicted to gambling and the use of these machines were taking money from their children’s pockets. There was a demand to do something about this.”