May 16, 2003 at 11:09 AM EST - Updated September 26 at 5:53 PM
Pat's Varieties on Market Street appears to be a furniture store, they're advertising a sale on an oak bed and a steal on a TV, but is this store really selling furniture?
News 6 asked ask to see the TV on sale when the clerk told that they had already sold it. The store had no other furniture in sight either., and we were'nt allowed to go in pass the front door. Sergeant Morgan with the New Hanover Sheriff's department wasn't surprised by our results.
"If you're a frequent customer and they have illegal gambling they know whose there and whose not supposed to be, that's why they don't let you in."
Video poker is legal, as long as the machines don't pay cash jackpots; however, Sergeant Morgan says phony storefronts are masking a troubling reality for police; video poker is paying off big time for several people, and using undercover officers to crack down on the games isn't a priority.
So we went to Candle World on Wrightsville Avenue where we first we had to ring a bell. You'd assume they sell candles, but they actually have 3 registered poker machines. The woman inside agreed to show us the machines, and if the only prizes are candles, the machines are legal.
News 6's next stop., Aqua World on Oleander Drive.
"Do ya'll have swimming pool supplies? no mam. We sell fish tanks for Beta fish. Can I check them out? Yes."
There were no machines in plain view there, and behind the tinted windows all we saw were several fish bowls. Sergeant Morgan tells News 6 that state law requires the machines to be in plain view.
"If you walk into a business as soon as you walk in the door you have to see them, if you don't they are in violation."
That law would also crash the party at Party Time on Shipyard Boulevard. The establishment appears innocent, mothers day gifts, balloons and collectibles, and the sign says open, but we were asked to come back another day.
Their days may be numbered though. A bill passed by the senate and now before the state house could give video poker the "royal flush", barring the games no matter what the prize; however, for now what you see at these stores is not necessarily what you get.