Bartlett v. State

Court: Georgia Court of Appeals
Case Number: 829 S.E.2d 187
Decision Date: June 25, 2019
Case Type: Illegal Gaming
The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the evidence presented in criminal trial was insufficient to support a finding that coin operated amusement machines (COAMs) from the defendant’s business had been converted into commercial gambling devices. Bartlett owned a restaurant in Byron, Georgia which included a dining area and a game room that contained nine COAMs. In 2015, the Byron Police Department (BPD) began investigating the restaurant following complaints of illegal gambling. After spending a very short time familiarizing themselves with COAMs, two officers of BPD went to the restaurant and started playing. One the second day of playing one officer was able to play sixty dollars to win one hundred ninety dollars. The winnings were redeemed by taking a certificate to the register of the business and receiving lottery tickets and cash. A short time later, officers of BPD with agents from the Georgia Lottery Commission obtained a search warrant of the restaurant and Bartlett’s home. He was eventually charged with eight counts, including racketeering, commercial gambling, and keeping a gambling device. 
At trial an agent of the Georgia Lottery Commission testified that Bartlett had a valid location license and that the COAMs were operating the appropriate types of games and displayed all of the required notices. Using a forensic expert testimony was also proffered that nearly $2.5 million was unaccounted for in the records and that the only conclusion was that the COAM redemptions had been paid out in cash. The jury convicted Bartlett on three commercial gambling charges and he was sentenced to five years, with two to be served in confinement. On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the state had conceded that there was no evidence Bartlett had tampered with the COAMs or had done anything to remove the element of player skill. As a result, the court held that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to convict Bartlett.