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Business loses alcohol license
Hearing Thursday for second store in gambling sting
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Dawson County commissioners voted last week to suspend a local convenience store's beer and wine license, and a similar fate may await a second business this week.

The suspension for Silver City Express on Hwy. 9 South will remain until Dec. 31, at which time the owner of the store at that time may apply for a new license.

As the governing body regarding violations of county ordinances, the commission called a special hearing May 8 to consider the suspension.

A hearing was also scheduled for Shell LLC at 41 Big Horn Drive after managers at both stores were arrested March 8 in connection with an alleged illegal gambling sting.

While the violations were not contested for the Silver City store, an attorney for Ravikumar Kondaveeti, who is listed as the contact for both, has challenged the alleged violation at the Shell station.

Howard Manchel, an Atlanta-based attorney specializing in gaming law, argued the felony charges have been filed in error.

"What I want to argue to the governing body at this time is that is really not commercial gambling," he said. "There is a particular statute that we have probably violated, at least for the purpose of this hearing, and that's illegal redemption.

"But it's not gambling. It's not a crime of moral turpitude. It's giving out, really, the wrong prize for somebody who won."

As the lead investigator in the criminal case, Jennifer Wright of the Dawson County Sheriff's Office disagreed.

In addition to the commercial gambling charges, Wright said the investigation also revealed that management at the stores allegedly made beer payouts, including to underage individuals, for gambling machine winnings.

In addressing the commission, Manchel referred to state law.

"The beauty of the legislation that we have is that it protects the owners ... from being charged with a felony that would cause them to lose their license," he said.

"I'm not here to sanction the fact that these games can sometimes be misused, but the misuse of these games is not a felony. It's not commercial gambling. It's illegal redemption."

According to Manchel, the Shell station is under contract to be sold. He asked the county for 30 days before making a decision to suspend the alcohol license.

"In this case, we've got a letter and our lottery license is already suspended. What I'm trying to do at this point is hold one to some income while we try to sell the store," he said.

The commission is expected to revisit the matter at 6 p.m. Thursday.