A Winder businessman and the Winder Moose Club 262 pleaded guilty in federal court last week to illegal gambling with an Athens video poker rental company.
According to a May 4 court document, the Moose Club 262, at 434 Hwy. 211 in Winder, was charged with one count of intentionally supervising part of an illegal gambling business over a three year time period.
A similar document charged Gonchikar Raya, owner of Big Don’s and the Universal Game Room, both at 186 W. May Street in Winder, with operating gambling machines under contracts with the Athens business over a five-year period.
U.S. attorney Michael Moore accused both defendants of allowing Heritage Amusement Company of Athens, to set up video gambling machines with cash proceeds benefitting five or more people
According to an official court document, Heritage, in business since 1990, sells and rents arcade games and pool tables and places video gaming machines in businesses such as gas stations, convenience stores and fraternal organizations.
Heritage had multiple contracts with Raja’s businesses and court documents state that Raja managed and supervised up to 31 video gaming machines in his two stores for a split percentage of the illegal cash proceeds. He also admitted that he failed to report all of his illegally derived proceeds on his federal income tax returns.
During the five years Heritage and Raja had those contracts, a Heritage employee known as “the route man” came to collect the cash from the video gaming machines at Raya’s stores and split the proceeds with him, Raya’s plea agreement states.
The court also accuses the route man of only reporting a percentage of the actual illegal profits to the government, after recording the total amount of money that went in and out of each video gaming machine on standardized letter size tablet piece of paper. The actual meter reading of each machine was recorded in a ledger book.
Raja would call the route man when a player had won a jackpot if his store registers lacked the cash to pay out and the money would be handled through Heritage’s owner or general manager, the pleas agreement states.
Other times, the route man would simply go to the location and remove cash from the machine and give it to Raja to payout to the player illegally.
Raja would then leave a note in the machine and Heritage would deduct the amount from the route man’s next collection from Raja.
Similarly, the Moose Club 262 had multiple contracts with Heritage, which court documents state supplied the organization with up to 12 video poker machines.
According to its plea agreement, the organization claimed it knew at all times that the money gained from the video poker was illegal.
The court defines illegal gambling as an operation which affords the player an opportunity to obtain money or other things of value, or that which is determined by chance even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the gambling device in violation of the laws of the State of Georgia.
Raja faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
A representative with the Moose Lodge 262 faces a maximum fine of $500,000 and up to five years in prison. Its governor, Don Jennings, signed the plea agreement.
The court has not yet set sentencing dates for either party.
The state runs gambling; they call it the lottery, a vital component of public education. But, when a bunch of drunk ping-pong players do, it's an immoral and felonious affront to human decency. That's hypocrisy.