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    Illegal Gaming Cost Ga. Stores Alcohol Licenses

    Video gambling machine payouts cost three Hall County stores malt beverage and wine licenses.

    BUFORD, Ga. -- For the next four months, business might be slower at a couple of convenience stores in North Georgia's Hall County. But at least they are still open.

    County commissioners voted last week to suspend the malt beverage and wine licenses of three stores that made cash payouts on video gambling machines last year.

    The 129 Food Shop and RK Food Mart in Buford, Ga. each had their licenses suspended for 120 days following a hearing yesterday. Both had previous license suspensions, according to Poker Magazine, which tracks the gaming industry.

    Kamar Hamrani, manager at RK Food Mart, said on average the store sells about $600 of alcohol per day Monday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, it goes up to $1,200 a day, he said. "We'll lose a lot of business," he said. "People buy other things when they come in and buy beer. Now people will go somewhere else."

    The commission also has suspended the beverage license of E-Z Buy BP in Buford for 90 days. In addition, a hearing for a fourth store, Chevron Food Mart in Gainesville, Ga. was tabled until July 24.

    Commissioner Roger Cole said the county had not previously faced a convenience store conducting illegal gambling operations. Last week, the board asked County Attorney Bill Blalock to check with surrounding counties to see if they had similar cases, but there were none. "We felt 120 days was appropriate if they had some prior history and 90 days if they didn't. In that degree, we were setting a precedent," Cole said.

    Video poker was outlawed in Georgia on May 28, 2002. Storeowners could operate the machines through June, 2002. Before the machines were banned, winners had to be paid in gift certificates and store credits.

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