On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at the FishZilla Arcade, 1812 East Innes Street, Salisbury, North Carolina. The business, which advertised that it was an arcade, was in actuality an illegal gambling casino. Over a two month investigation, the sheriff’s office determined that the business was committing multiple violations, including allowing customers to bet credits in violation of state law and paying cash for winnings, also a state violation. The sheriff’s office determined that the business had a total of 37 server based gaming terminals operating with the use of a mouse. These terminals were using “Aloha,” “8Fuse,” and “Gateway” software. Additionally the casino had four fish tables with a total of 38 terminals, sporting a variety of games. Searches of the gaming systems confirmed what the investigation had previously shown, in that customers were able to wager credits exceeding that allowed by law and having more than five such machines makes it a felony. The sheriff’s office seized servers connected to the gaming systems, CPU’s, printers, a money counter, and other evidence related to the gaming operation.
The business was closed at the time of the execution of the search warrant, but the operational gaming systems were still located at the business.
In January 2020, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office began notifying operators of suspected casinos that the sheriff’s office would begin enforcement of North Carolina Law, specifically G.S. 14-306.4. The notifications were done by way of hand delivered letters and publicity through the media. The operators were specifically told that the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office intended to vigorously enforce the laws of the State of North Carolina, as they pertained to illegal gambling, which included sweepstakes, fish games and the like. During the past several years the sheriff’s office has received multiple complaints from the public, law enforcement partners, and city and county planning and zoning officials about these illegal operations. These businesses have been a magnet for crime, including illegal possession of firearms, violations of the North Carolina Private Protective Services Act, drug trafficking, robbery and murder. The businesses were told to cease operation by January 20, 2020, or risk the consequences, such as arrest, seizure of equipment and profits from their illegal businesses. After business were notified, some ceased operation, some remained open and some briefly closed and then reopened. The FishZilla Arcade had been open sporadically since the public notification.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has identified the operators of the FishZilla Arcade and will consult with Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook regarding appropriate charges.