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Lancaster County deputies have seized sweepstakes machines across the county in the past two weeks, making good on a notice Sheriff Barry Faile gave businesses last month.
In February, Faile gave fair warning to owners of the recently outlawed machines to remove the devices from their premises voluntarily during a two-week grace period, or “Take your chances.”
This month, deputies followed through with the promise and seized 15 machines at four different establishments since March 7. The machines were taken before a magistrate who deemed them illegal.
Faile said most of the machines were seized from locations in the Indian Land and Elgin communities. It was not immediately clear if there were any charges related to the seizure.
Owners have 15 days to appeal the ruling, after which they will be destroyed, Faile said in a press release Friday, March 22.
“From this point forward anyone found with an unlawful gaming machine will be charged criminally,” Faile said. “We have been extremely lenient and allowed owners ample opportunity to remove these machines from the county.
“We will extend that leniency no longer,” he said.
Faile said his office will continue to work closely with the S.C. Enforcement Division and the S.C. Attorney General’s office in finding the machines and prosecuting owners and players alike.
Broadly, a sweepstakes machine is any gambling device where users purchase a product, such as a long distance phone card, and are then given a chance to play a game and win prizes.
Though electronic poker machines have been illegal in South Carolina since 2001, sweepstakes-type machines remained available through a legal loophole.
The state General Assembly has now closed that loophole.
In January, the state Senate made the machines illegal as defined in Section 12-21-2710 of the S.C. Code of Laws.
The S.C. House of Representatives followed suit Thursday, March 21, by approving the same measure.
That vote sends it to the desk of Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley spokesman Rod Godfrey told the Associated Press this week Haley will happily sign the bill.
Godfrey said Haley believes South Carolina should not settle for such gambling because “our great state has too much going for it to sink to that level.”
Faile said the law is clear.
“There have been over 1,200 of these machines seized around the state,” he said. “If we find any in Lancaster County, they will be taken and those numbers will be added to the statewide total.”
The sheriff’s office asked that anyone with information on any of the machines in Lancaster County to call (803) 283-3388.
Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151