Twenty-four people were arrested Wednesday when law enforcement officers from multiple agencies served search warrants on a number of what they termed “illegal gambling establishments,” and that number could have been higher had word of the impeding operation not apparently gotten out.
“Most of those places were in the process of shutting down when we got there,” Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson said during a press conference to announce the results of the operation Thursday afternoon. “Some of the people just didn’t get out in time.”
Robinson said officers seized about “a half-million in cash,” and more than 600 machines after serving 15 search warrants, including one in Little Rock and another in Hot Springs.
Search warrants were served at the following locations Wednesday.
• Fun Time/Taj Mahal, 2801 S. Olive St., Suite 6A, Pine Bluff
• Goodtime Arcade, 440 Dollarway Road, Pine Bluff
•Lucky 7 Game Room, 5404 Dollarway Road, Pine Bluff
• Spin-N-Win, 4030 W. 25th Ave., Pine Bluff
• Fun Time, 1600 Ohio St., Pine Bluff
• The Game Room, 3510 W. Sixth Ave., Pine Bluff
• Cherry’s, 1706 E. Harding Ave., Pine Bluff
• Phone City Games, 2828 Market St., Pine Bluff
• High Roller, 3210 Camden Road, Pine Bluff
• The Game Room, 8213 Highway 63 South, Pine Bluff
• Cafe Atlantis, 2510 E. Harding Ave., Pine Bluff
• Cyber Zone of Arkansas, Fourth Avenue and Walnut Street, Pine Bluff
• Gipson Game Room, Sixth Avenue and Missouri Street, Pine Bluff
• Lucky’s Pot of Gold, 4210 W. 28th Ave., Pine Bluff
• 109 Coca Bay Point, Hot Springs
• 44 Chenal Circle, Little Rock
The three-month undercover operation began after Robinson and others received a number of complaints about the arcades, with Robinson describing them as committing “crimes against economic development.”
“Gambling is illegal and hurts the citizens of this county,” he said.
All of those arrested were charged with keeping a gambling house, a Class D felony punishable by zero to six years in the penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
• Stacy Knott, 48.
• Ora Fair, 44.
• John Erwin, 58.
• Jeffery Fuller, 47.
• Laura Phillips, 36.
• Corliss Richardson, 33.
• James Cotton, 39.
• Robert Washington, 56.
• R. G. Goal, 54.
• Anthony Sidwell, 42.
• Geneva Gray, 66.
• Donald Bowers, 25.
• Bryan Holleman, 38.
• Dale Brown, 38.
• Kenneth Beatty, 56.
• Sonya Hicks, 55.
• Henry Gipson, 65.
• Vernice Merritt, 31.
• Amber Furgason, 31.
• Tyanna Scarver, 21.
• Anita Woodie, 61.
• Mike Scallion, 65.
• Belinda Kolaczawski, 54.
• Roberto Crawford, 40.
With the exception of Fuller and Kolaczawski, all those arrested appeared before Jefferson County District Judge Kim Bridgforth and had their bonds set at $1,500.
Fuller made a court appearance Thursday morning before Bridgforth and after the judge ruled prosecutors had probable cause to charge him with keeping a gambling house, she set his bond at $5,000.
Kolaczawski was not arrested until late Wednesday night and is scheduled for a probable cause appearance Friday.
Eleventh Judicial District-West Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter, whose district includes Jefferson and Lincoln counties, said the operation targeted owners and operators of the video arcades, and more arrests are anticipated as the investigation continues.
“We’ve fought this problem for years,” Hunter said. “A couple of years ago, some people developed a new business model to get around the Arkansas law offering phone cards and sweepstakes, but it was just gambling. People putting up money to try and win money.”
Hunter said one of the businesses “gave away a $22,000 car and that really got our attention.”
A woman at the press conference questioned the difference between the lottery, scratch-off tickets and the arcades, and Hunter said that while the first two are legal, the last isn’t.
“If the Legislature wants to make them legal, that’s up to the Legislature,” Hunter said.
Robinson was asked about some of the businesses that were raided and said “I did not believe what I saw. I have been to casinos in other states and I couldn’t tell the difference between those and some of the ones here.”
Although the State of Arkansas licenses the machines, creating the impression that they’re legal, Robinson said it is up to local authorities to ensure that they are being used properly, and to take action if it is determined they are not.
“Arkansas issues people driver’s licenses but that doesn’t mean that people can drive drunk,” Robinson said.
Pine Bluff Police Deputy Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said officers from the department served five of the search warrants, making seven arrests, including one on drug charges and another for an outstanding warrant in addition to the operators of the arcades.
In addition to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and Pine Bluff Police Department, other agencies taking part in the operation were the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, White Hall Police Department, Tri-County Drug Task Force, Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, Little Rock Police Department, Star City Police Department, Dewitt Police Department, 18th Judicial District Task Force in Garland County, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas County Sheriff’s Department.
Video Summary of Two-Day Events Surrounding "Operation Lucky 7's"
View Gambling Raid in a larger map
Full Video From Press Conference