PITT COUNTY - Police and deputies seized illegal video poker machines from almost 30 businesses across Pitt County Tuesday morning during what they deemed "Operation Pot of Gold".
Investigators said they executed warrants at seven establishments in Greenville and 22 other businesses in Pitt County at about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden says operations such as these can be very dangerous. "There's guns, there's money, there's unknown other people inside these locations," said Aden.
Authorities also seized money associated with the illegal gambling operations.
The plan was devised after a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in October. That ruling upheld the North Carolina Supreme Court's decision about the gambling machines, saying "this particular type of sweepstakes machine is illegal," according to Pitt County District Attorney Kimberly Robb.
Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said he knew these machines were in area businesses. He and Chief Aden say they were awaiting the legislative decision about the machines before moving forward with the operation.
"When we stop in a convenience store and purchase something from the convenience store, I sit there and have to see the video machine in front of me, it's like we walk in a room and somebody's smoking a joint. It's like am I gonna turn my head, or am I gonna do something about it," said Sheriff Elks.
Some Pitt County sweepstakes machines remain standing. That's because authorities say they are within the current guidelines. "The new software, some people are still saying that it's questionable. We feel like it's in compliance with the law," said Sheriff Elks.
However, the Sheriff and Chief say they're sure some illegal machines are still out there, and they're going to keep looking.
Investigators are combing through evidence to determine whether the owners of the illegal machines will face charges.
This was a joint operation between the Pitt County Sheriff's Office and the Greenville Police Department. Officers with Winterville, Ayden and ECU Police assisted in the operation, as well as authorities with the ALE.
Pitt County Sheriff's Office officials say they seized 78 machines and $33,185.35 dollars in cash from their 22 locations. Authorities with the Greenville Police Department say they seized 17 machines, as well as cash and guns.