SWAT Teams Arrest Five, Seize $62K at Arkansas Gambling Dens

Posted on: April 22, 2021, 03:03h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2021, 03:24h.

Authorities in Fort Smith, Ark., arrested five men and seized more than $62,000 in raids on illegal gambling dens at two pool halls, according to a news report.

Arkansas arrest
A man arrested in SWAT team raids on Arkansas gambling dens displays an identifying placard in a law enforcement photograph. Five men were arrested in the raids. (Image: KFSM-TV)

Investigators learned from a confidential informant during a drug investigation that illegal gambling was taking place at two pool halls in Fort Smith, according to KFSM-TV. The pool halls are Buckets Billiards on Grand Avenue and Classic Billiards on South Zero Street. Fort Smith is in the western part of the state, near the Oklahoma border.

Capt. Philip Pevehouse of the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department said illegal gambling occurred in backrooms at the pool halls.

Gambling could take place, and you could come out of there with money that had been won,” Pevehouse told KFSM-TV.

After a five-week investigation, SWAT teams on April 16 raided the gambling dens. Five men were booked into jail and charged with the felony crime of keeping a gambling house, the television station reported.

The five are Michael Eakin, 67, Ronald Wight, 60, Edwin Eddins, 57, Chad Bandy, 44, and Bryce Bandy, 28, according to Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Shue.

Deputies seized 12 gambling machines at Buckets Billiards and 20 machines at Classic Billiards, the television station reported. Authorities also confiscated $62,261 from the pool halls.

The suspects are due in court on April 28 for an arraignment. 

Authorities issued misdemeanor citations to 11 people using the gambling devices when the raids occurred, Pevehouse said. 

Pevehouse said he questioned whether people wanting to gamble needed a special password, or needed to know someone to enter the backrooms where the illegal machines were.

“Every time that question was asked, I was told, ‘No. You just walk right back there,’” Pevehouse said.

The captain told KFSM-TV that no drugs were recovered during the investigation. He also said the arrests ended the probe into illegal gambling. 

Casino Gambling Allowed

In Arkansas, gambling is legal at three licensed casinos. They are Oaklawn Casino Racing Resort in Hot Springs, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff. A fourth casino has been licensed for Russellville, but is tied up in a legal dispute.

In addition to being a hotel-casino, Oaklawn is home to a racetrack with a storied history in horse racing, dating back more than 100 years. Southland has a dog track that is set to shut down next year, though the resort will remain open. After 2022, West Virginia is expected to be the only state with legal greyhound racing.

Also in Arkansas, a state scholarship lottery is offered. Participants can buy lottery tickets at retail outlets or on an app called Jackpocket. The app is available in seven other states and Washington, D.C.

Grand Opening in Hot Springs

Oaklawn this week held a grand opening for its $100 million expansion. 

The construction project, which began two years ago, includes an expanded gaming area and an eight-story, 198-room hotel. Some of the guest rooms overlook the horse track. The resort also added a 15,000-square-foot events center and spa.

About half the hotel rooms are available now, with prices ranging from $155 to $320, depending on the day of the week. The other rooms should be available by the end of April, according to Oaklawn officials.