GASTONIA, N.C. - Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winner Matt Grant was honored this weekend with his fourth Emmy for his investigation exposing an illegal gambling operation inside a Gastonia tattoo shop last February.
FOX 46 Charlotte also went undercover in 2019 to expose gaming operations that operate out in the open.
Producer Christian Audesirk and Matt Grant went into several gambling "arcades" to show how an industry that is illegal, untaxed and unregulated, is thriving and raking in money by exploiting a loophole in state law.
The state has banned games of "chance" but not games of "skill." FOX 46 showed how there is no "skill" involved in these games. FOX 46 found law enforcement agencies across the state enforce the law in disproportionate ways because one police chief said the law is "clear as mud."
In February 2019, Audesirk helped in the start of the investigation, going undercover inside a Gastonia business.
Using a hidden camera, FOX 46 went undercover inside the tattoo shop in February 2019 to expose a secret.
From the outside, the Gastonia tattoo shop was unassuming. However, once inside, next to the tattoo artboard, folks could find an unmarked door.
That door lead into a small closet-like area with a second unmarked door. On the other side, the area was monitored by video surveillance.
What FOX 46 uncovered was a small, backroom gambling operation that the local tattoo shop, a more than 15-year-old business, didn't want anyone to know about.
The area was protected by a fake wall and a video surveillance system that monitored the outside of the door and building. Customers came by word of mouth, according to a source. Inside, FOX 46 found at least four video poker and blackjack machines. These games were untaxed and unregulated. One was branded with a Carolina Panthers logo.
The problem is video poker machines were outlawed in 2007, according to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation along with slot machines and other "games of chance."
Zoning officers eventually went to the Gastonia tattoo shop to investigate but no electronic gaming machines were ever found.
Officials couldn't find the four video poker machines, which were first uncovered by a FOX 46 producer wearing a hidden camera. The disappearance of the machines suggests the secret gambling den was dismantled.
FOX 46 spoke to an insider in 2019 who exposed how the slot machines are programmed to make a profit - but not for the players. Because of what FOX 46's Matt Grant found, a state senator called on lawmakers to close the loophole and shut these places down.