Illegal Internet gambling operation busted in Walnut Ridge

John Ward (Source: Walnut Ridge Police Department)
John Ward (Source: Walnut Ridge Police Department)
Michelle Ward (Source: Walnut Ridge Police Department)
Michelle Ward (Source: Walnut Ridge Police Department)

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Months of investigation by the Walnut Ridge Police Department bust a gaming operation downtown.

Two are behind bars and police say they'll spend months sorting through evidence seized from a search warrant served last week.

Walnut Ridge Police tell Region 8 News the illegal Internet gaming operation was going on in the back of the B&J Market on Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

"When it first initially started, it was gonna be where you could go in and buy a phone card and get minutes put on the card," Chief, Richy Thatcher explained.

Cards that read "Inter-Connect" that could be swiped at computers located in a back room of B&J Market. Thatcher said, if you won a game, it was supposed to add phone minutes to your card. However, months of investigation revealed that wasn't what was happening.

"They were actually going in, putting money on the cards and using them to play jackpots, slot machines and everything," Thatcher said. "Then when they started to leave, they'd go up to the worker at the store and they would actually present with them cash money."

Thatcher said that was the illegal aspect.

"You can play, but you cannot receive any kind of cash money or merchandise like that so that's why it was illegal, that they were paying out cash money."

Thatcher said they seized those gaming systems during a search warrant last week along with paperwork that doesn't leave many questions unanswered.

"They had files of people that had been in playing, the money they had won, the money they had actually spent," Thatcher said. "It gives us a lot of people that were in there. Not only that, but it's actual things that, like I said, how much they went in for, how much they won."

Two were arrested. The owner of B&J Market, John Ward and an employee, Michelle Ward. Each were charged with keeping or operating a gaming house.

Police, so far, have been able to determine the gaming house had at least been in operation since January 1 of 2013. However, that well-kept documentation might tell police if the operation had been going on for years prior.

"As far as the investigation, it'll probably go on for several more months," Thatcher said.

John Ward and Michelle Ward will appear in circuit court on September 17.

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