LITTLE RIVER, S.C. (WBTW) – The state took action last year to potentially revoke the alcohol licenses for an American Legion in Little River after two gambling machines were found at the site, according to records.
The documents, recently obtained by News13, detail an investigation into the machines, and how the organization came to a consent agreement with the South Carolina Department of Revenue. The case was closed in 2021, but News13 received the documents from multiple agencies after requesting them several months ago.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division received a complaint in February 2021 that illegal gambling happened at the American Legion North Strand Post 186, according to documents.
A SLED investigator showed up to the site and found two tabletop-style machines in the bar area, according to records, with a person playing at one. The “Game Gallery” machines had poker, keno, blackjack and 8-lines games.
The American Legion post told News13 that the case happened under a previous commander and it had “really nothing to say on it.”
The machine “is unique with built-in parameters used to disguise the illegal games from the menu until money is inserted in the machine,” according to the inspection. To play the illegal games, a person has to insert money, hit the “favorites” tab, and then select another option to pull up more games – all of which are illegal in South Carolina.
The American Legion’s commander at the time told SLED that he split the profits evenly with a company weekly, which typically gave the site $400, according to the documents. There was also a money bag at the American Legion that was specifically for cash payouts to players. There was $250 in the bag at the time.
The SLED investigator seized the machines and the cash. An Horry County magistrate judge later ruled that they were illegal and signed an order of destruction.
The case was then sent to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, which issued the American Legion post a notice in April 2021 that it intended to revoke the organization’s beer and wine license, along with its liquor license. The post was given a choice between the licenses for a two-year span or protesting the decision.
A letter from the post’s attorney, dated May 4, 2021, said that the state must first establish that the bar “knowingly” broke the law. The bar protested the decision to revoke its licenses.
“American Legion North Strand Post 186 denies that any such violation occurred,” the letter reads.
The case was settled that month.
The South Carolina Department of Revenue and the American Legion post signed a consent agreement, which said that the department had enough evidence to prove that the post violated the law and that, if the case went to a hearing, there would be a “substantial likelihood” that the post violated it, according to the documents.
However, the post signed the agreement “without acknowledging the commission of a crime.” The post agreed not to have gambling machines in the future, and paid a fine of $1,000. If it violates the law again, it will lose its beer and wine permits, along with its alcohol licenses.
The fine was paid on May 31, 2021.
There were no people arrested for gambling offenses in 2019 or 2020 in Horry County, according to a 2020 crime report from SLED. Statewide, there were 33 people who were arrested for gambling offenses in 2020, 49 in 2019 and 86 in 2018.
Documents from SLED show one gambling investigation in Horry County in 2020, and one in 2019. One is for a gambling machine that was found in a storage unit and was being sent to auction. The other occurred at a car dealership.