Jul. 15—Anniston police raided two alleged illegal gambling houses Thursday morning, police Chief Nick Bowles said, seizing 59 gambling machines, three ATMs, a firearm and some cash.
No arrests were made during the 8 a.m. raid, Bowles said, but they're coming. Bowles said the public should expect raids on other gambling houses police believe to be in operation around town.
"We're going to go after all of them," Bowles said.
Bowles said tips from the community led police to the two alleged gambling sites, one in the 400 block of North Hunter Avenue and the other in the 100 block of Old Gadsden Highway. The two raided properties have different owners, and a search of court records yielded no evidence of prior gambling charges for any of the property owners. It's unclear whether the buildings were operated by the property owners or were under lease at the time of the raid.
A typical illegal gambling house used to be a commercial business, Bowles explained. "Now they're just blank, maybe with blacked out windows — but there are a bunch of cars out front every night. People in the community notice it."
Around noon Thursday, the police department posted a video on Facebook showing an exasperated Bowles talking about the raids from inside each of the raided buildings, where rows of gaming machines glowed in the dim light like video games in an arcade.
"I told you," he said. "I guess people thought I was playing. I guess people thought it was a joke. I warned all these businesses about these illegal gambling machines."
In the video, Bowles seemed to anticipate pushback from local residents questioning whether gambling raids are worth the police department's time.
"If you want them to be legal and you think they should, you can contact your state representative," he said. "That's in Montgomery. It's got nothing to do with us. As long as it's illegal, we will enforce the law."
In the video, Bowles said gambling establishments have also been associated with recent serious crimes, including a murder. Asked if the video referred to the as-yet-unsolved shooting earlier this month of Anniston resident Braylon Thomas, Bowles said no. Thomas was shot around 3 a.m. July 4 on Duncan Avenue: Bowles said the shooting happened after Thomas left a party.
According to Bowles, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office and the county Major Crimes Task Force assisted in the raids. He said the raids occurred at 8 a.m. to avoid the crowds that are typically present at gambling establishments at night.
"This is not the 1920s," he said. "The cops don't come in to raid a speakeasy full of people."
Bowles said he expected to announce arrests stemming from the raid in coming days.
Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.