Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies joined forces Wednesday afternoon to serve search warrants at video arcades in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and elsewhere.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Major Lafayette Woods Jr. said officers served warrants at 12 commercial establishments and two residential locations, one in Little Rock and the other in Hot Springs.
Two additional establishments on the search warrant list were closed.
Woods said the warrants followed a three-month investigation into what he called “illegal gambling” and said more details will be announced during a joint agency press conference at 2 p.m. Thursday in the rotunda of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
A total of 10 teams from the sheriff’s department and five from the Pine Bluff Police Department were involved, Woods said in a text message sent to a reporter Wednesday afternoon. Among the locations where the warrants were served was the Taj Mahal in the Jefferson Square Shopping Center, Cherry’s on East Harding Avenue, Fun Time Arcade on Ohio Street, Lucky’s on West 28th Avenue, Cyber-Zone Internet Cafe on West Third Avenue and a building formerly occupied by the Fragrance Center at 2828 Market Street.
Woods said the impetus for the investigation and warrants came after Sheriff Gerald Robinson received a number of phone calls from members of the public, members of the Pine Bluff City Council and Jefferson County Quorum Court members.
“They were complaining about the traffic particularly, and the fact that some of them appeared to be operating 24 hours a day,” Woods said. “These kind of businesses affect families because some people will spend their last dime trying to win a few dollars.”
Woods said this was the second time an operation of this kind had been planned. He said an earlier effort that had been set for July was postponed when “word leaked out.
“Trying to keep something like this concealed is really difficult, and it takes a lot of additional manpower to make it work,” Woods said, adding that 167 officers were actually involved in executing the warrants.
The number of machines seized during the operation was not available, but police officers who were at the Fun Time Arcade estimated there were 40 operating machines inside, all of which were being taken out and loaded into a rental truck Wednesday evening.
Even with the obvious police presence, a number of people could be seen trying to enter the Taj Mahal on Wednesday afternoon, with one woman saying she “tripping” and questioning a sheriff’s official about “what they were going to do about the money she was owed on her card.”
No figures were immediately available as to the number of people arrested or the amount of money seized.