By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
May 14, 2014
Video sweepstakes parlors are again making news as state and federal agents raided a number of businesses in eastern North Carolina last week. Meanwhile, sources say a well-known Bladen County gambling establishment reopened after a jury failed to reach a verdict in a case against its owner.
“These are both prime examples as to why this industry can never be trusted or regulated in any way as an income stream for North Carolina,” said the Rev. Mark Creech. “Again and again, we see people charged with violating the state’s ban on video sweepstakes jump right back into the business. Obviously these folks, if not addicted to the machines themselves, are apparently overly attached to the huge profits taken out of the pockets of the gaming addicts they’ve produced.”
While neither the ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office would comment on the recent raids Wednesday, media outlets reported late last week that the operation involved some 400 search warrants, with many focused on businesses connected to the Godwin family — David Ricky Godwin, Sr., David Ricky Godwin Jr., Bonnie C. Godwin and Tracey E. Godwin.
According to the U.S. Attorneys Office, both David Ricky Godwin Sr. and Jr. pled guilty in 2003 to operating an illegal gambling business with the elder also pleading guilty to “structuring financial transactions in order to evade currency reporting requirements of the Internal Revenue Service.” Those charges resulted from “Operation Double Black Diamond,” a five-year probe by federal and state agents, after which Godwin Sr. was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution in addition to a jail sentence. His son had to forfeit $200,000 and also faced jail time followed by three years probation.
At that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office labeled the Godwins “one of the largest operators of illegal video poker machines in the state,” operating more than 300 video poker machines in more than 20 locations, under the business names of Raleigh Amusements and Godwin Music Company, two subsidiaries of RGB Inc.
“Investigation by the FBI and IRS showed that Godwin (Sr.) structured more than $5 million in deposits, including the proceeds of his illegal gambling enterprise, through his accounts at the Selma branch of First Citizens Bank and Trust Company,” the office reported in 2004.
The Goldsboro Daily News reported last week that a search warrant presented at a local sweepstakes outlet named not only RGB and its related companies but also Ten-Seven Ventures and any holdings “owned, operated or managed” by the Godwins. The newspaper reported that agents seized video gambling machines and hundreds of dollars in cash at several locations. Similar raids occurred in Selma, Wilson and Stantonsburg.
Meanwhile, some residents of the tiny Bladen County town of Dublin would love to see a raid on a gambling business called Aladdin’s. Owned by Jeff Smith, who has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of electronic gaming, the business at the intersection of Highways 87 and 410 reopened recently despite the charges.
According to information obtained from the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, Smith’s case wound up with a hung jury after a nine-day trial about a month ago. Further information showed nearly a half dozen Bladen County sweepstakes businesses voluntarily shut down following the N.C. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling upholding the state’s video sweepstakes ban. Although Aladdin’s — one of three in the area linked to Smith — was closed for a time, sources say its parking lot was recently paved, and a crowd gathered there this past weekend.
Another source told the CAL he had a friend who reported losing $30,000 at the business over a fairly short time period before it had closed. Smith at one time filed a lawsuit against Bladen County and Sheriff Prentis Benston, but it has since been dismissed.