Five businesses in Bartow County suspected of violating Georgia’s commercial gambling laws were raided by law enforcement Wednesday.
Kim’s Gift Shop, Red Top Food Mart, Mack’s Express/Smart Mart, and Gift Shop in Cartersville and Sunoco in White were, according to officials, simultaneously raided by more than 40 agents from the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Commercial Gambling Unit in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Revenue and Georgia Lottery Corp., according to local news agencies.
The news agency reports that officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation say that the coordinated commercial gambling bust resulted in the arrest and incarceration of five people as well as money and other evidence, which pointed to commercial gambling operations being run at the locations, being seized by agents.
WXIA-TV reports that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that while all five of the Bartow County businesses were licensed to possess “Coin Operated Amusement Machines,” during their investigation the agency discovered that cash payouts were being given to customers for winning credits. Under Georgia law, winning credits are to be redeemed for store merchandise or lottery tickets only.
Six individuals were reportedly arrested and charged with felony commercial gambling in connection with the raid. They include four people from Cartersville, 57-year-old Xaing Yun Jin, 46-year-old Meilan Xu, 44-year-old Shahid Mushtaq, and 27-year-old Luisa Tercero. Also arrested were 45-year-old Farhan Hameed of Ellijay and 48-year-old Clara Mullinax of White.
According to the Cartersville Patch, a spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that both Hameed and Mushtaq are store owners and that the other four individuals arrested are employees at the various locations.
More arrests are reportedly pending in connection to the case.
Georgia is one of if not the least gambling-friendly state; residents have the Georgia Lottery and are permitted to take part in charity bingo and raffles. However, Georgians looking for a little casino or betting action will have to cross state borders into North Carolina where currently they can choose from a few tribal bingo options and a pair of Harrah’s casinos owned and operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, or Mississippi or Florida. Another option is a casino cruise ship taken from an Atlantic Ocean port. Once ships hit international waters, casino games can be played.
After legislation that would have allowed casino gambling in Georgia died late in February when sponsors of Senate Bill 79 were not able to garner enough support to get the bill out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, State Rep. Ron Stephens’ plan to present a revised measure, House Bill 158, was scuttled after a compromise plan fell apart just days later.