In the world of brazen thievery, there’s your standard smash-and-grab robbery.
And then there’s the smash-and-grab of the sledgehammer variety.
That’s exactly what occurred at a Citgo station in Kennesaw.
It was there a man took a sledgehammer to a COAM and made off with thousands of dollars in cash. The individual is now wanted for vandalism and grand theft.
Currently, Georgia gambling options are a state lottery and Coin Operated Amusement Machines (COAMs), the closest thing to slot machines the state has allowed.
Crime has accompanied COAMs in Georgia
It’s not the first occurrence of theft or attempted theft in establishments in Georgia that house COAMs. And it almost certainly won’t be the last.
With the gaming machines raking in billions in annual revenue, they’re attractive targets for ne’er-do-wells seeking a quick score.
They’re primarily located in convenience stores and bars, and they’re potentially holding thousands of dollars in cash. Take into account the variances in security apparatus between locations and you’ve got a recipe for a guy wielding a sledgehammer to give it a go.
It’s a sorry state of affairs, and another avenue exploited due in part to the state’s aversion to legalized gambling.
A gambling vacuum and a black market
Georgia recently kicked the can down the road on legalized sports betting during its legislative session. That means the GA Legislature will not take up the issue again until 2023, barring an unexpected special legislative session.
While folks who wish to do wrong will always find some way to, it’s not hyperbole to say that the security in a casino far exceeds that of a Citgo station.
A man taking a sledgehammer to a Megabucks slot machine in a casino would make national news. A man doing the same to a COAM barely registered a blip on the radar.
The state’s refusal to successfully enact gambling legislation has created a vacuum. One where “gambling” exists on the fringes and one in which opportunists with construction equipment are eager to operate.
That’s the one constant in any area where demand for an item or behavior is outlawed.
Black markets emerge and criminality tends to flourish.
Opponents of the recent push to legalize sports gambling in Georgia cited “an increase in crime” as one of the cornerstones of their position. But, situations like the Kennesaw COAM smash-and-grab prove that stance is short-sited and misinformed.
You’ll never truly eliminate criminal activity, but making things strictly off-limits only creates an atmosphere for it to thrive.
A burden on business owners, COAM vendors
As crime has long accompanied COAMs — usually involving illegal cash payments instead of sledgehammers — the state Legislature recently approved gift cards for winners in an attempt to curb under-the-table payments by vendors.
While a welcome development, these are merely bandages that slightly maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, a chasm emerges between Georgia and the majority of the nation regarding gambling.
Amid these fissures roams an underbelly of people looking to take advantage of innocent business owners operating as COAM vendors. Sometimes in the vein of fraud, other times with hammers in hand.
Crime is an unfortunate component of society.
The main question for the state Legislature is: Do you view betting on the Atlanta Falcons as smashing open a legally-operated COAM?
Photo by Scott McGill/Shutterstock