Aug 07, 2023

South Carolina: Company sold, operated illegal gaming machines

'Wherever illegal money is made, crime festers,' one official said

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'Wherever illegal money is made, crime festers,' one official said

A video gaming machine allowing players to cash in after shooting fish will cost an Upstate company more than $1 million after it pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina said in a release that Bubba Technology Group, LLC, based in Piedmont, was the subject of an extensive investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

"The Defendant took a chance that it could make money by breaking the law. It lost that bet,” U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said. "Wherever illegal money is made, crime festers," he said.

Officials said evidence presented in court showed that the company was leasing and selling unlicensed gambling machines to various businesses throughout South Carolina – including convenience stores and bars.

Known as Fish Machines, officials said the gambling machines allowed a player to insert cash into the machine and attempt to shoot digital fish based on how many credits the player chose to wager. If successful, a player could exchange a printed receipt for cash at the store or bar.

In cases where Bubba Technology Group leased machines to a business or individual, the profits were split between the two entities, officials said.

It is illegal under South Carolina law to keep, operate or distribute unlicensed gambling machines within South Carolina.

The law defines a gambling machine as a gaming machine in which a player receives cash payouts as a result of their play.

As part of the felony sentence, the company agreed to forfeit approximately $367,000 – its profits from the illegal business – and it will not be able to sell unlicensed gambling machines within South Carolina. Authorities also seized dozens of machines and an additional $670,000 from gaming houses affiliated with the business.

"This business sold machines that allowed people to make wagers and win money – which makes the business illegal under federal law here in South Carolina," Boroughs said. "This office will aggressively pursue those who seek to get rich by breaking federal laws."

"No matter what your personal views may be, gambling is against the law in South Carolina," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said. "The law is the law and it must be followed."

"Cases like this prove the old saying, that 'crime doesn’t pay,' is right," Ronnie Martinez, the special agent in charge of HSI in North and South Carolina, said. "Thanks to the great work done by HSI and its law enforcement partners, this illegal gambling enterprise has been dismantled."

SLED Chief Mark Keel said, “Illegal gambling operations like this will be shut down. SLED Agents worked closely with our federal partners on this operation to ensure any business that violates the law will be held accountable.

United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins, Jr. sentenced Bubba Technology Group to one year of probation, and forfeiture of $367,039. Seizures in related cases resulted in an additional forfeiture of $673,408 in illegal gambling profits.

Officials said all of the illegal gambling houses were shut down.