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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2006
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Game parlors shut down in Decatur
Sweepstakes operations close after court ruling

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.comˇ 340-2355

Two video sweepstakes parlors within the city limits closed their games this week after a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled that a similar operation at a Birmingham dog track was illegal, Decatur police said.

Sgt. Faron White, head of the police Organized Crime Unit, said he believes the two operations were the last holdouts of the slot machine-like games in Decatur.

Decisions to end video sweepstakes at an Internet café on Alabama 67 and a mobile home at B&B Trailer Park on Modaus Road were made by the proprietors, White said.

"On the day the ruling came out, I took a copy of it out to both locations and asked them to shut down, and they agreed to that," he said. "I advised them that we were going to start taking enforcement action."

Businesses using a different type of machine complied after receiving an Aug. 2 notice from city prosecutor Wayne Alexander Jr. He gave proprietors 30 days to remove the machines or face fines, seizures and possible jail time. Alexander stated in his letter that a review of relevant laws and court opinions led him to believe the games were illegal.

"The difference was the ones at the convenience stations were stand-alone machines and these at the Internet Café and B&B were running off the computer system and the Internet server," White said.

White said they are the same sort of machines the dog track used.

The machines are still prevalent in other jurisdictions, White said.

"You go outside the city limits, you're going to find them. I'm not sure how other departments in other jurisdictions are going to handle that, but I'm sure they're going to take steps with this new ruling," White said.

Phillip Watson, co-owner of E&P Produce on Neel School Road, said the Phone Time machines at his store and many other locations differ from the Mega-Sweeps machines at the Birmingham Race Course.

They are, however, the variety of machines purged from Decatur in August.

The machines give the user four minutes of phone time for every dollar put into the machine. The chance games that follow give players the opportunity to receive a cash prize based on points accumulated in the game.

District Attorney Bob Burrell met with law enforcement officials Wednesday to discuss the ruling, but it was not immediately clear whether Morgan County or municipalities other than Decatur intend to take action against video sweepstakes.

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