Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies raided a taxi company Wednesday in the 700 block of North Reilly Road, seizing seven video gambling machines from the business, sheriff’s spokesman Sean Swain said.
Almost simultaneously, deputies raided another storefront owned by the company, Pick Up and Ride, in the 500 block of South Reilly Road. Swain said the company had been about to open an illegal video gambling parlor there.
He said the businesses are operated by Won Nam Hong, 55, of the 700 block of Decatur Drive in Fayetteville. Hong was charged with gambling and conspiracy, Swain said.
He said deputies armed with search warrants also raided Hong’s home and that of an accomplice in Spring Lake looking for financial documents and other materials tied to illegal gambling. He did not yet know how many gaming machines were seized in total.
Swain said warrants had been issued for the accomplice, but he wouldn’t name him before his arrest.
Former Sheriff Moose Butler had long been a driving force against illegal video gambling in Cumberland County. In 2006, Butler’s voice helped the General Assembly pass a state law that made video gambling illegal. A judge overturned the law in 2009, and the state fought back with another law the following year.
Business owners challenged the law, leading to a proliferation of sweepstakes cafes in the county and across the state until the state Supreme Court banned them in 2013. Shortly afterward, Butler shut down the cafes, and deputies seized hundreds of machines in the process.
Since then, raids of video gambling operations in the county have been sparse.
Swain said Sheriff Ennis Wright intends to follow Butler’s path, shutting down gaming parlors whenever they are uncovered. Swain said the latest raids stemmed from an anonymous tip.
“The sheriff is going to enforce the gambling laws in North Carolina,” Swain said. “If you don’t enforce this, it creates other types of crime.”
Video gaming can be a lucrative illegal business, with some machines netting $1,000 a day, Swain said. With that kind of money being generated, he said, gaming operations become a prime target for armed robbers.
Swain also noted that the illegal proceeds are not taxed.
“It’s not fair to citizens that these people are gaming the system,” he said.