Officers Tuesday raided an alleged gambling den for video gamers that was labeled as a smoke shop in a Santa Ana shopping center.
A search warrant was served Tuesday morning at the business at First Street and Golden Circle Drive and 45 people, including the manager, were arrested, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. The owner was not on the property at the time, he said.
Police hauled off 10 large table-top video game machines and several other smaller video game machines, Bertagna said. The games are typical of the ones found in any arcade, but they have been reconfigured so the gamers can gamble, he said.
Neighbors and other area business owners complained about the business, prompting the investigation, Bertagna said.
The outside of the business has a sign saying “smoke shop,” but “there wasn’t any tobacco in it,” he said. “We went there at 4 this morning and it was still open for business.”
Police have raided multiple businesses offering gambling in the city in recent months, he said.
“This was the largest operation we’ve come across in the city so far,” Bertagna said. “And, according to the detectives, they think there’s an excess of 30 operating in the city.”
The illegal cyber cafes attract a variety of spillover crimes such as drug dealing, prostitution, burglaries and robberies, Bertagna said.
“We’ve had several shootings that occur at these establishments, so it’s a quality-of-life issue for our community and our business owners,” he said.
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