HARRODSBURG — Police raided a convenience store Wednesday afternoon and uncovered a sophisticated video gambling operation set up in two back rooms.
Harrodsburg Police Chief Billy Whitenack said officers obtained a search warrant for Pioneer Market on U.S. 127 just north of Bright Leaf Resort after an undercover operative had gambled and received payouts at the store multiple times in the past week. Seventeen stand-alone video poker and slot-type gaming machines were seized, Whitenack said.
Store owner Edward Johnson was interviewed at the scene and told officers he thought the machines were legal, said Lt. Chad Powell. No charges were filed, and the store was allowed to reopen after the machines were removed. The investigation is continuing today, and evidence eventually will be presented to a Mercer County grand jury, Powell said.
Harrodsburg City Commissioner Scott Mosely, who oversees the police and fire departments, said the undercover investigation was launched after County Attorney Ted Dean received several calls complaining about gambling at the store. Some callers said they had lost “thousands of dollars” at Pioneer Market, Mosely said.
Police sent an operative to the store to play the machines on different occasions. In describing how the set-up worked, Whitenack said a gambling patron would enter the store and ask a counter employee for an e-token, a memory card like device that can be loaded with money and inserted into the gaming machines located in two back rooms at the store. Money won and lost on the machines is recorded on the e-token and if any money remains when the gambling session is completed, the token is cashed out by an employee and a receipt is issued, Whitenack said.
One woman who was gambling at the store on Wednesday had just used her credit card to load $150 on to her token, the chief said.
“It’s definitely a pretty sophisticated set-up,” Powell said.
Whitenack said there are no plans to charge anyone who has gambled at the store. Powell said possible charges against Johnson, the owner, include possession of illegal gaming devices and promoting gambling.