Owners of a Columbus gas station jailed after gambling bust - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Owners of a Columbus gas station jailed after gambling bust

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

The owners of a Columbus gas station are in jail, charged with allowing customers to gamble illegally with coin operated machines.

It's a crime that Georgia officials say is occurring more frequently across the state. In an effort to decrease the temptation of doing the wrong thing, the law is changing next week.

They're called coin operated amusement machines, and you can find them in convenience stores and gas stations across the region. Resembling casino slot machines, the state says there is a right way and a wrong way to use them. Winning customers are supposed to be paid in vouchers for store merchandise, but when the business starts paying out cash, that's when undercover police show up at their doorstep.

Last night, June 26, police arrested three men at the Quick Stop on Second Ave. who are accused of doing just that. Agents also seized tens of thousands of dollars worth of illegal earnings. 

The Georgia lottery has been monitoring the situation, and starting next week, they're going to allow business owners to start giving out lottery tickets as prizes when customers win games on their machines. It's an alternative that officials hope the stores will choose instead of breaking the law.  As of today, June 27, the gas station that police raided has closed, and a crew was changing the sign from BP to Fuel Tech.

We did some research and learned one of the owners has been in trouble before. Darshan Bhalodi was arrested in December 2012 for accidentally shooting a customer. Bhalodi told police he was aiming his gun at a suspected shoplifter who he says was threatening him with a broken bottle, but he also hit another person who was standing nearby.

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