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County to vacate court order on gaming machines

POSTED: July 28, 2014 7:47 p.m.

A state law that rescinded a previous policy has prompted Effingham County commissioners to agree to vacate a 2010 court order.

Commissioners agreed to vacate a March 29, 2010, court order stemming from a sheriff’s office raid of several local stores illegally operating gaming machines. But House Bill 487, passed by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed into law April 10, 2013, allowed for those machines to be used, under the auspices of the state lottery commission.

“This has a little bit of a history,” said attorney Mickey Kicklighter, who was representing the store owners in the consent order. “These machines used to not be in compliance with the law. There were several stores that were found to be operating the machines.”

Assistant county attorney Elizabeth Pavlis advised having Kicklighter’s clients and courts agree to rescind the order, giving the county nothing upon to which to act.

“I think it would be cleaner to do away with the consent order altogether,” she said.

Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a countywide raid in January 2009 on several local convenience stores suspected of running illicit video poker machines. Nearly two dozen machines were removed, and investigators also confiscated more than $500,000.

“The devices at the time were illegal,” Pavlis said. “They are no longer illegal.”

As a result of the money being condemned, Kicklighter said, an agreement was entered into how much would go to the county. The agreement also stipulated the stores could not operate the machines without the permission of the commissioners or the sheriff.

“Since that time, the law has changed and the machines are authorized and part of the lottery system,” he said. “This is an attempt to bring that old court order into compliance with the law. We have talked with the sheriff’s department. They are fine as long as the machines are operated in compliance with the new law. All the other stores in the county can have them now. It was just these stores that were involved in that incident.”

Five consent orders covered more than $350,000 confiscated in the raid. Of that total, 12 percent went to the ECSO and 10 percent of that total was directed to the district attorney’s office. Kicklighter said the commissioners could agree to the revised consent order he proposed.

“There is also nothing wrong with the way has Elizabeth proposed,” he said. “Both of them reach the some thing —it gets rid of the ordinance out there.”

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