Judge orders suspected gambling machines to be destroyed
BEAUFORT, S.C. (WCIV) -- A Beaufort magistrate has ruled machines seized from a Bluffton sweepstakes business should be destroyed.
Chief Magistrate Darlene Smith believes the machines were in fact used for gambling.
In an order issued Tuesday, Smith ruled that South Carolina's gambling statute applies to 20 computers seized in September 2011 from Hest Sweepstakes, 1008 Fording Island Road, Bluffton.
"The ruling validates our opinion," said Solicitor Duffie Stone. "The machines are gambling devices, are against the law and should be destroyed."
According to South Carolina law, machine-based gambling has three elements: a person pays in money, plays a game of chance and has the potential to win money. At the business, customers would pay money to a clerk, who would give them a randomly-generated pin number that determined whether or not they had won money. The customer could ask the clerk if the pin number was a winner, and thus collect the money on the spot, or could use the pin to play various games on a computer that would reveal how much they had won.
"Hest was using technology and wordplay to try to circumvent South Carolina's anti-gambling law," said assistant solicitor Carra Henderson, who successfully argued on behalf of the state
"Instead of having a coin slot, they had a clerk accepting money," Henderson said. "Instead of placing a bet, they called it a donation. Instead of having a lever on the machine, they used a mouse to click a start button. Hest can dress things up as much as they want, but the bottom line is that these machines were being used as a tool for gambling."