By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - A wealthy Shelbyville businessman failed Thursday to get a judge to order the district attorney to back off of his video gambling business -- a business that Keith Heflin claims is legal.
Shelbyville police confiscated dozens of machines last week following a NewsChannel 5 undercover investigation.
For years, Keith Heflin had claimed he'd figured out a loophole in the state's gambling laws -- even when courts ruled against him.
But Chancellor J.B. Cox refused to order the DA to return Heflin's machines or to rule that they are indeed legal, saying in a written decision handed from the bench that "this Court has no desire to interrupt an appropriate criminal prosecution."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Heflin for his response.
"I don't have any comment right now," he answered
Heflin claims the current versions of his machines are legal because patrons are really just buying phone cards -- and getting a chance to win cash prizes as an incentive.
Yet, inside a store across the street from the Shelbyville Police Department, we discovered $400 in phone cards that gamblers had left behind.
"Why do people not take the phone cards?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked one clerk, who allowed us to keep them.
And at another store, where police wheeled out Heflin's machines and left behind a floor littered with his phone cards, a banner advertised other cards that delivered almost 1,000 minutes for just $10.
But for $5, Heflin's machines provide just 30 minutes of phone time.
"Do you still think your machines are legal?" we asked Heflin.
"Absolutely," he replied.
"Even though you've lost cases around the country?"
"I have no more comment."
Now it will be up to a judge to decide in another court on another day.
Right now, police say seven store owners have been charged with aggravated gambling promotion and possession of gambling devices.
Police haven't charged Heflin, although they won't rule out the possibility.