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Lucky winners roll the dice at Roaring Rotary casino
Elaborate trips, TVs round out grand prizes
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Godfather Vernon Smith, Brian Specs Burke, Commission Chairman Mikey Ice Berg, Pepper Roni Pettit and James the Mayor Grogan were tossed into the Rotary Penitentiary on alcohol and racketeering charges Saturday night when deputies raided an underground speakeasy hidden behind a secret wall at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

Dawson County deputies raided an underground gambling parlor Saturday night and arrested several well-known wiseguys on alcohol and racketeering charges.

Working on a tip, Sgt. Eric Johnson uncovered a Roaring 20s speakeasy hidden behind a fake wall at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame just after 9 p.m.

He had warrants for the arrests of Commission Chairman Mikey "Ice" Berg, James "the Mayor" Grogan, Pepper "Roni" Pettit, Brian "Specs" Burke and Godfather Vernon Smith.

"We're innocent," Pettit called out as he was tossed into the Rotary Penitentiary. "There's nothing illegal going on here, I tell you. We're just trying to raise some money for the family here in Dawsonville."

A few minutes later, Johnson said the Godfather gave him an offer he couldn't refuse and released the alleged mobsters on their own recognizance.

"Thank goodness," Pettit said. "We'd rather use our bail money to support Rotary's service projects in our community."

Aside from the feds trying to bust up the party, gamblers said a night at the Roaring Rotary Café's casino is one they won't soon forget.

"I started with $100 and finished up at $4,210," said Shannon Stephens, who successfully doubled down on 13 at the blackjack table, a move the dealer called extremely risky.

With luck on his side, he walked away with one of the night's top prizes, a 48-inch flat screen Pettit that said "fell off a Walmart truck."

"That was a lot of fun," Stephens said.

Still in shock over winning a weeklong trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Adam Smith said the laughter in the room was proof that everyone at the event had a great time.

"I can't wait to do it again next year," he said. "I appreciate the Rotary Club of Dawson County for putting on another great event."

Proceeds from the event will support the club's nearly four dozen service initiatives, which target the promotion of peace, disease prevention, providing clean water, serving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies.

A portion of the revenue is also designated to be contributed to Rotary International's signature mission of eradicating polio within the next year. There have been 19 cases of crippling disease worldwide in 2016. The cases were in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Rotary International has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio.

Additionally, through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.

"Our club has a goal to collect $3,000 for the Rotary Foundation's Polio Plus program this year," said Scott Yochum, fundraising chair. "We made a good dent on that goal this weekend when Kim Waters, our Rotary District 6910 Governor donated her winnings in our 50/50 poker raffle back to our polio campaign.

"We want to thank her and everyone who attended our inaugural casino night for their support."