ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Citing complaints from the public, robberies, and other criminal activities associated with these types of businesses, the Rowan Sheriff’s Office has informed owners of local fish arcades that they must cease operation by January 20.
On Monday, Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten sent letters to 22 businesses in Rowan County informing them that the RCSO will enforce North Carolina General Statute 14-306.4 which says that “electronic machines for sweepstakes are prohibited.”
“Recent court rulings favor this law,” said Chief Deputy David Ramsey. “The businesses, sweepstakes, fish games, and the like are illegal gambling establishments and we only recognize the state lottery and casino gambling.”
The businesses in Rowan County receiving the letters have until Monday, January 20, to cease operation or risk the consequences, such as arrest and the seizure of equipment and profits.
Chief Ramsey said there are 14 such businesses in municipal jurisdictions in Rowan County, and 8 outside municipal jurisdictions, but still in Rowan County.
“Multiple robberies have occurred at these gambling establishments, some of which have gone unreported to law enforcement,” Ramsey said.
Last week a man was arrested for an armed robbery at the Fishmania arcade on N. Long Street. That crime had not been reported to police, but was only discovered when a person pulled over in a traffic stop mentioned it to the officer.
In January there was an armed robbery at a fish arcade on Highway 801 in Woodleaf. Nine customers and an employee were held at gunpoint.
In August, a masked man with a handgun made off with a bag full of cash from the Fish Hut on Statesville Boulevard, and in October, 2018, three armed men robbed the Fish Pond arcade on Statesville Boulevard.
Chief Ramsey said the Rowan Sheriff’s office had received complaints from the public, law enforcement agencies, and city and county planning and zoning officials about these businesses.
Arcade operators usually argue that they’re following state law because they say the money a person can win is based on skill, not luck.
The city of Greensboro banned fish games, while in Concord they were hit with restrictions.
A sweepstakes operations owner was arrested in Concord in February after a search turned up illegal gaming machines, police say.
Police executed a search warrant at Double Deuce Sweepstakes on Union Cemetery Road SW, where they reported finding a significant amount of cash and computer equipment related to an illegal sweepstakes gaming operation.
The owner of Double Deuce, 42-year-old Jeffrey Lee Phillips of Kannapolis, was arrested and charged with possession of 5 or more electronic gaming machines.
The cash and equipment were seized.