Pine Bluff Police Department officials asked the Public Safety Commission Wednesday for permission to sell 250 arcade games seized in 2013 as part of an illegal gambling raid. Twenty-four people were arrested in the Aug. 23, 2013 raid, when officers from multiple law enforcement agencies served warrants in more than a dozen Pine Bluff locations with the machines, as well as Little Rock and Hot Springs.
The officers seized roughly $500,000 in cash and more than 600 machines. Assistant Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said the games themselves are not illegal, as long as prizes are paid out in tokens or tokens that may be redeemed for an amount of no more than $12.50 under the state’s “Chuck E. Cheese” gaming law.
“But you can’t pay in cash,” he said.
The department put a quote out to buyers for the games, and received a bid of $75 per machine from an interested buyer in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Seems low,” Alderman Bill Brumett said.
Sergeant said the department wants to sell the machines to a buyer outside of Pine Bluff, “because they’ve been a constant problem.”
Deputy Chief Billy “Skip” Elliott added that the longer the department pays rent on the machines, the more money it will lose. He estimated the department has spent roughly $13,000 on rent thus far, and would make about $18,000 on the sale. Brumett asked whether illegal gaming in the form of arcade machines was still occurring in Pine Bluff. Sergeant said the activity is “starting to pop back up.”
The committee voted to send the department’s request to the City Council. Interim Police Chief Ivan Whitfield said he met in the morning with Little Rock animal control officials “to help us get things back in perspective” after a Drug Enforcement Administration audit found missing drugs at the Pine Bluff Animal Shelter about a week ago. The drugs were Ketamine — an anesthetic that is also used recreationally — and another unnamed substance.
The raid prompted dual investigations by the DEA and the Police Department. Whitfield spoke vaguely about the latest details. He said the DEA had pulled records at the shelter from April 2016 to December 2016. The drugs must be stored in a combination safe with an alarm system, according to federal regulations. Police told the Commercial immediately after the raid that very few people had access to the drugs.
“We’re now facing an order that hopefully we will be able to apply to get [the drugs] back, signing things in, signing them out in an audit every month,” Whitfield said.
The Little Rock animal control officials are assisting with that process, he said. Elliott said the department’s investigations division spent most of March investigating five homicides that occurred in Pine Bluff during the month. The department has made arrests in four of the five cases.
“The one that isn’t [cleared] is still being diligently worked by detectives,” he said.