Bakersfield police raid computer game arcade

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Police raided a computer game arcade, armed with a search warrant to look for evidence of illegal gambling.

Shamrock Social Gaming and Mining had been open since late March on Brundage Lane, but Wednesday morning officers were pulling out computer equipment.

"When they got here, there were about 50 people inside the establishment playing games," Sgt. Joe Grubbs told Eyewitness News. He said officers had gone undercover at the location, and had more information on how the operation had worked.

In late March, an Eyewitness News team went inside the arcade and was given an opportunity to see it. Housed in a small office complex near South H Street, two walls were lined with computers. A worker provided the phone number of the owner's attorney.

Peter Beckman had told us the players were "mining for a new 'crypto-currency.'" He also sent an internet link from Shamrock -- Social Gaming & Mining, which explained that players are called "miners," and they can acquire "ShamrockCoin" from the games.

Grubbs says investigators believe cash did change hands.

"They will use cash to purchase social currency, social digital currency," Grubbs said. "With that cash they'll go into a game console and they would play games." Grubbs described the games as "very much like casino-type games."

Shari Jones lives across the street on Brundage, and she'd gone over to ask about the operation when it first opened up.

"You gamble, and they will give you a receipt," she says two men told her. "You go somewhere down the street, very close. I've watched them walk and then come back."

Grubbs says investigators believe the other location is a small office in the 100 block of Chester Avenue, where players could redeem any game winnings.

"They were not allowed to say 'cash out,' the terminology that was used would be 'receiving a paper wallet,'" he said. Grubbs said the wallet included a receipt and bar code, which could be taken to the office on Chester.

An employee there would scan the bar code, and "pay cash, less 10 percent back to the person that made the original purchase."

By late Wednesday, Shamrock attorney Peter Beckman said he's had a chance to review the search warrant.

"I think there's confusion by the police," he said by phone. Beckman said the arcade games are not like slot machines as the police contend. He said with computer games, a player can see what the prize will be before every level of play

"There's no element of chance," he said. And, Beckman said he could look at what recourse against the city the center may have.

But, neighbors say they worried about other problems at Shamrock.

Shari Jones says she'd seen police respond to the center on Brundage several times since the arcade opened, and she'd seen trouble there.

"Bikes being stolen," she described. "Drugs and money changing hands right here at this brick wall." That's in front of the center.

In a parking lot to the back, a man who said he works nearby complained players at the center would fill the spaces, leaving no place for staff from other offices.

Grubbs said equipment and computers from the center were seized, but no one from the arcade was arrested. However, one player was arrested for gun-possession and drug sales. And there was suspicious activity.

"When detectives served the search warrant today, there were several meth pipes that hit the floor, people trying to get rid of their stuff," he said. "That's the type of clientele that was being attracted to this type of center."

Neighbors had voiced similar complaints about customers at so-called Internet cafes. The Kern County District Attorney's office had termed those "sweepstakes cafes," and has won several court rulings allowing them to be shut down. More arguments on that issue are set to go to the state Supreme Court next week.

Grubbs says the computer game arcade isn't exactly an Internet operation.

"Here, there's not that opportunity to play or be on the Internet, this is games only," he said.

But, he says the investigation into the Shamrock Gaming center will now go to the D.A.'s office

"We'll have to get some legal definitions from the courts on where this goes and the next step with these," Grubbs said, "the legality or illegality of these types of centers, and then we'll move forward from there."