Last week in the Surry County court system several high-profile cases came to a quiet conclusion.
Earlier this year the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and the Mount Airy Police Department conducted several raids on Internet gambling parlors, charging owners and workers with various offenses and confiscating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth pf computers, machines, and cash.
Most of the charges were dismissed last week in deals worked out with those facing charges. While the specifics might be a little different from case to case, essentially the agreements are for charges to be dismissed, in exchange for the operators of those establishments to agree not to attempt operating such a business again in the county, along with agreeing to allow the county to retain goods and cash seized in the raids.
This seems like a good compromise for all involved.
While they received some criticism for the arrests, we still believe both law enforcement agencies were right to conduct the raids. Gambling is not a victimless crime, and while everyone who is an adult is ultimately responsible for his or her own actions, these establishments were in a position to take advantage of individuals who had gambling addictions, or sometimes use poor judgment in what they did with their money.
That’s not to say the occasional poker game is a bad thing, but when people gamble away money that should be going for rent, for medical bills, or to feed the kids — and that happens with alarming frequency — then we believe most reasonable people would say that’s a poor decision.
Gaming establishments are built to take advantage of such folks, with little in the way of community involvement or economic enhancements coming out of their operations. Even though some will say a handful of jobs are created in those establishments, we suspect far more jobs would be created if the money and resources going into them were used for more conventional business enterprises.
And, even if anyone disagrees with those statements, the bottom line is they are illegal to operate in North Carolina.
However, the folks running them aren’t exactly drug dealers, violent criminals or repeat DUI offenders. Locking them up, or even using up expensive court time and resources on cases, might be justified in the right circumstances, but working out deals which permanently close their establishments, penalizes them for breaking the law, and pays for the expense of the law enforcement action, seems like a reasonable conclusion.
In this case the actions of law enforcement and the district attorney’s office were more about compliance than punishment, and that seems to be the right choice here.