HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - It was bad luck for three businesses in Hawkins County after the sheriff's office seizes several illegal gambling machines.
News 5 learned it was complaints from the community that actually tipped off detectives. The sheriff's office says this bust is a way to keep homes and families safer.
They're not just a game to pass the time; these poker machines are illegal in Tennessee and a whopping 17 of them were found by detectives with the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office. "[They were found] at the VFW in Bulls Gap, CJ's Market in Bulls Gap, and Stanley Valley Pool Hall," said Detective Daniel Byington with the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office.
Along with the poker machines, detectives collected nearly $9,000 in cash. "We gave [store owners] the option of giving [the poker machines] up freely at the time without an ongoing investigation," added Detective Byington.
News 5 learned that's why no criminal charges were filed, even though it is illegal in Tennessee to have gambling machines. "It was basically a warning to the people, instead of an ongoing investigation that if we do get word of more machines coming back, there will be charges," said Detective Byington.
News 5 stopped at the VFW to get their side but no one wanted to talk on camera. It was the same story over at Stanley Valley Pool Hall; no one wanted to make a comment there either.
Some residents say it's not fair the machines were seized. "It's entertainment, lottery tickets are entertainment [and] they legalized that. Why not legalize poker machines? Why not just tax them?" asked resident Roger Campbell.
Others say having the machines gone could be a help for people battling gambling addictions. "That would be a big problem if their addiction was too close to them and they couldn't break the habit fast enough," added resident Jayma Hale.
Detectives are keeping a close eye on all three businesses.
Anyone with information about illegal poker machines is asked to call the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office at (423) 272-4848