Injunction sought to stop sweepstakes machine seizures

A group of South Carolina business owners has filed an injunction against the State Law Enforcement Division and the Attorney General's Office in an attempt to stop the seizure of Internet sweepstakes machines.

The seven plaintiffs, being represented by former SLED director Reggie Lloyd, all say in the filing that they fear arrests and charges against them because of the machines. Four of those plaintiffs have been arrested and charged in the past for owning and operating the machines in their businesses.

In the suit, the plaintiffs claim their sweepstakes machines do not run afoul of the state's video poker law because users are free to participate in a "promotional game" after buying Internet time or long distance minutes and no money exchanges hands for a chance to win like the old video poker machines.

By law a magistrate must inspect the machine and determine whether it's a legal gaming machine if law enforcement agents think the machines violates the state's poker machine ban.

The plaintiffs add that other items, such as ATMs, security cameras, televisions, rugs, chairs, signage, and vehicles, were also seized by law enforcement officials, despite no statute telling law enforcement agent to seize those items.

Another claim put forth by the plaintiffs is that their "property and business rights" have been harmed by the raids.

Several suits have been filed across the state to try and determine if the machines violate the law.

In Kershaw County, a judge there declared the sweepstakes machines to be illegal. Law enforcement officials there seized several of the machines.

In Horry County, a magistrate took a look at one of the machines and also believed them to be illegal.

In the past few months, law enforcement agencies across the Midlands have seized sweepstakes machines from convenience stores and other types of businesses in an effort to crack down on them.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he was contacted by Lloyd and asked if he'd consent to stop the search and seizures.

"Our response is going to be that we're not consenting that we're going to stop enforcing the law," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. "That's what we're going to do, we're going to continue to enforce the law. As long as it's illegal, we're going to enforce the law."

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