Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday confiscated gambling machines and drugs during a raid at a convenience store northwest of Anniston.
“Just owning these machines is illegal in Alabama,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said standing outside JJ’s Food Mart at the intersection of Alexandria Road and Willett Street. “They, however, were also operating them out of a back room in the store.”
Wade said a tip came to him directly from a source, who he declined to name, about the machines.
“We sent undercover deputies to check the place out,” the sheriff said. “They played and even won $10. When they went to the counter, they were paid out of a bag underneath the register.”
Cannabidiol oil, a substance extracted from the marijuana plant, was also discovered at the store, Wade said.
“We’re excited to get someone selling drugs from a business shut down at least for a little while,” he said. “Anyone could have come in here and purchased the marijuana oil from them. Kids had easy access to it.”
During the raid, which happened around 12:40 p.m. Wade said, a woman was found playing on one of the six slot machines.
“She turned out to have a warrant out for her arrest,” Wade said. “We took her to jail.”
The owners will also likely face drug charges and illegal gambling charges, Wade said, but as of 2 p.m. they were still present at the store. Deputies largely kept the owners inside the store and away from reporters Wednesday. An employee, who declined to provide her name, later said by phone that the owners were not at the store and that she could not comment on the incident.
Many people driving by the corner-lot store slowed to a crawl to watch as deputies loaded the machines in a trailer. About a dozen customers made it to the door before they were turned away by deputies informing them the store was closed.
“Any time we do one of these gambling raids people tell us to get the real criminals,” Wade said. “Well, this is illegal. If you don’t like that talk to your legislators.”
Wade said that between the time he was tipped off to the machines and when deputies went into the store undercover, the slots had been moved from the front to the back.
“They knew what they were doing was illegal,” the sheriff said. “They made some admission of guilt when they told people not to mention the machines.”