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DA: Investigation yields video gambling at store

Four “Video Redemption” games sit in the back near the rest rooms at the Pilot Truck Stop in East Albany on Cordele Road at Clark Avenue.

Four “Video Redemption” games sit in the back near the rest rooms at the Pilot Truck Stop in East Albany on Cordele Road at Clark Avenue.

ALBANY -- A raid on The Thrift Shop at the Village Green Shopping Center yielded six video machines at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, said Greg Edwards, Dougherty district attorney.

"It is OK to have video machines," Edwards said. "It is illegal to gamble for money with them."

Edwards said the machines have counters on them that show "tens of thousands of dollars" have passed through the machines.

The video machines were kept in a back room at the 2401 B-1 Dawson Road store. The front room had several racks of previously owned clothes, DVDs and a regulation pool table for sale.

The owner of the store, James Epler, said that he did not offer cash prizes for winners at the machines. He said he was state licensed and legal.

"It is a legitimate device. The state issues a Department of Revenue license," Epler said. "Redemption games is the legal term."

Epler brought out a stack of Sam's Club cards that he said are gift cards offered as legal prizes. The Pilot Truck Stop on Cordele Road at Clark Avenue and the Another Place bar on the 1500 block of Broad Avenue are two places selected at random with video games and redeemable, legal prizes.

"I want to know why all the other places that have the machines in the city are not illegal, but I am," Epler said. "I want to know what they are doing different that I am not doing. I'll do it. Do I have to give to the police benevolent fund? If it is illegal for one it should be for all."

Edwards said that other places operate under the law and cash prizes are not offered. If they were offering cash prizes there would be an investigation and possible charges filed, he said.

An investigation into Epler's business gave him probable cause for the search warrant, Edwards said. Because the investigation continues, charges against Epler are pending, he added.

"I have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that cash prizes were involved," Edwards said. "It is illegal."