Horry County police seize sweepstakes machines, issue gambling warrants

Horry County police seized the machines from Wine and Time Tuesday afternoon. / Aaron Varnam

Horry County police seized what they're calling illegal gambling machines from a Little River business Tuesday.

It's the county's first raid of video sweepstakes machines.

Assistant 15th Circuit Solicitor Donna Elder says police found 24 computers in the Wine and Time store off Highway 9.

Elder says a recent tip from a citizen led police to believe the store might have illegal gambling devices. That tip led the department's Special Operations Unit to send in undercover officers, who gathered enough evidence to lead to a search warrant.

Elder says five customers were playing the games when police searched the store. The players were given tickets for misdemeanor charges.

Elder says two employees were also cited and the owner was issued an arrest warrant for operating a house of gambling.

The store is licensed to South Carolina Foam LLC, which lists a Longs address.

Elder says the games are called sweepstakes games, but they are more than that.

"Poker, Black Jack, what we would call slots. They're not actually putting coins in the machine but in all practical purposes, that's exactly what it is. It is a gaming device and that's the way they've looked at it."

This may have been the first time county police have seized the Internet sweepstakes devices, but Elder says it won't be the last.

"I believe the Horry County Police Department has gotten a number of calls from the community requesting that these things be investigated and that's exactly what they're doing."

Elder says the solicitor's office is following an opinion from the SC State Attorney General, which led county officials to believe that the machines are illegal.

"Based on that opinion, you have to look at the primary purpose. And this business has posted sweepstakes, things like that, however, when looking at the primary function of the game, it is gambling."

We first reported on sweepstakes machines Monday, after we learned that one company that produces them was trying to get a business license in North Myrtle Beach. That company, Hest Technologies, did not produce the machines that were seized Tuesday. You can read the earlier story here.