Illegal Gambling Operation Discovered in Memphis: Over 260 Machines, $1 Million in Cash Seized

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) announced a successful “Operation Casino Royale” sting Monday, following the organized takedown of more than 260 illicit gambling games flooding West Tennessee convenience stores.

Memphis Police Confiscate Over 260 Illegal Gambling Machines

Tennessee casino gambling isn’t legal, but that didn’t stop Memphis gas stations from skirting the rules by installing slot-like games in the backs of stores throughout the city. Karma caught up to them, though, when Memphis Police confiscated upwards of $1 million in criminal assets during its “Operation Casino Royale” sting.

These casino-style machines began popping up at corner stores and gas stations in high-crime Memphis areas more than two years ago. Since these games are closely akin to traditional casino slot machines, they’re an immediate no-no in Tennessee.

That’s when the MPD created a special VICE Team task force and began planning for the sting in July 2022.

After conducting 65 thorough investigations, the team issued two arrests, 53 misdemeanors, and 12 city ordinances in connection with the operation.

The MPD’s latest Oct. 16 update noted that 268 illegal gambling machines and more than $1 million in cash have been seized, in addition to a number of guns, drugs, and paraphernalia.

According to the MPD, the existence of these unregulated machines — combined with their placement in high-crime locations — ultimately led to further criminal activity within the vicinity, such as theft, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Gaming vendor Torch Electronics intends to appeal these criminal allegations, saying that its machines are not games of chance and, thus, cannot be banned in Tennessee.

Sports Betting Is Legal In Tennessee, Casino Gambling Is Not

Despite Tennessee’s gradual expansion of legal gambling options in recent years, many restrictions remain in place. Online sports betting, the lottery, and horse race betting (technically) are currently the only forms of legal gambling in the Volunteer State.

Retail sports betting and all types of casino gambling are off-limits. This includes any seedy casino-style games players may come across at Tennessee convenience stores, as well as any online casinos. Since casino gambling is still illegal in Tennessee, the only type of online casino gambling residents have access to is at illegal offshore sportsbooks and casinos. These can be especially risky, as the sites are often not secure, and there’s no guarantee of your money and personal information staying safe.

Fortunately, Tennesseans looking to hit the slot machines or play table games have a few alternatives. Eager gamblers can access 2,000 slots and table games at Southland Gaming And Racing in Arkansas, just 11 minutes west of Memphis.

Similarly, Mississippi features more than 35 legal casinos and pari-mutuel facilities, the closest being just 40 miles south of Memphis. West Tennessee residents can also drive an hour north up to Harrah’s Metropolis in Illinois to take advantage of an expansive 24,000 casino floor.

Future Tennessee legislative sessions will undoubtedly bring new discussion concerning legal casino gambling and iGaming. The formal legalization of TN casinos, however, remains years in the making. In the meantime, Volunteer State bettors can enjoy Tennessee sports betting from anywhere in the state online.

As for disheartened gas station gamers, they’re stuck gambling on lottery scratch-offs and day-old hotdogs for the foreseeable future.

Alec Cunningham is a lead writer and analyst for She has covered countless online sports betting and casino legislation topics and now specializes in responsible gambling and gambling addiction recovery. In 2022, she served as a panelist at the All-American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry. As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. After working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer, she returned to her love of written word in 2020. Since then, Cunningham's love of sports has led her to become a responsible gambling advocate.

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