MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Law enforcement officers arrested 16 people and seized 56 suspected gaming machines Wednesday during a crackdown on illegal gambling.
According to a Thursday news release from Second Judicial District Prosecutor Keith L. Chrestman, agents also seized $100,000 cash from nine Blytheville and Osceola locations.
According to the arrest warrants, local law enforcement received complaints in the fall of 2020 about potential illegal gambling operations at the businesses.
“An investigation revealed that multiple local establishments were operating video slot machines,” the release stated. “These machines required no skill to play. Players instead inserted cash into the machine and would either win or lose money.”
Around 5:30 p.m. March 3, special agents swept into the businesses and collected the machines from five locations in Osceola and four in Blytheville.
The four locations in Blytheville include Larry’s Grocery off of Ruddle Road, Mark’s Exxon on South Division Street, Shell gas station on North Service Road, and the Tobacco Store on East Main Street.
Jessie Cassidy, a Blytheville resident, told Region 8 News he saw police surrounding Mark’s Exxon during Wednesday night’s raid.
“I was going to get some gas and cigarettes and that’s where that had a bunch of BPD and unmarked cars here,” Cassidy said.
He decided not to stop and went straight home.
The five locations that were raided in Osceola are Surf N Turf on the corner of Walnut Street and Semmes Avenue, Express Mart on the corner of Walnut Street and Keiser Avenue, Valero on Keiser Avenue, the Tobacco Store on Keiser Avenue, and the AZ Express Mart on Keiser.
Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson says that no matter how people feel about gambling, it is illegal and problematic in Mississippi County.
“It also has brought robberies before, it also has brought a lower standard at times in some of the businesses and different things that we see,” said Chief Thompson. “It is illegal and if it’s illegal we are going to enforce it.”
The names and a list of charges will be released once the suspects make their court appearance on March 5.
If convicted under the criminal use of property act, the suspects could be sentenced to as much as 3-10 years in prison.
Special Agent Robert Ephlin led the joint operation that included agents from the Second Judicial District Drug Task Force, and officers with the Blytheville, Osceola, and Wilson police departments.