President of alleged gambling technology company maintains innocence

gmartin@islandpacket.comOctober 29, 2011 

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The president of a Texas-based company targeted in recent months by South Carolina authorities for its alleged involvement in illegal gambling said its operations are lawful.

Last week, Hardeeville police raided an establishment operated by HEST Technologies, one of four businesses shut down by law enforcement in Jasper and Beaufort counties since June.

"We're frankly not sure why (the establishments) were shut down in South Carolina," said Chris Canard, president of HEST. "We haven't yet got an answer from anyone, either on behalf of the state or a local authority."

After the raid, Hardeeville Police Chief Richard Nagy said "customers would pay cash and receive tokens to play games of chance."

Canard maintains nonprofits are allowed to collect donations through such "sweepstakes" operations, and that the issue of legality could stem from the appearance of his company's machines.

"Maybe they look too much like video games, or slot machines," Canard said. "We certainly don't have any criminal intent."

Earlier this year, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the state's request to terminate HEST operations.

Despite shutting down HEST operations in the state, South Carolina authorities have yet to file charges against the company. Attempts Thursday and Friday to contact the State Law Enforcement Division to ask why charges have not been filed were unsuccessful.

For more than two years, HEST has been a primary contributor to Skyeward Bound Ranch, a charity that arranges cruises for autistic children and their families.

According to SBR's director, Dalace-Skye Duvall, the Cedar Hill, Texas-based charity receives "tens of thousands of dollars a month" from HEST.

"They've been beyond huge for us," said Duvall. "We're tremendously grateful for their involvement."

HEST is "by far" the leading donor among the few hundred corporations that contribute to SBR, according to Duvall.

Duvall is unperturbed by the raids of HEST operations in South Carolina, saying he was aware of the company's controversial operations before partnering with them in 2009.

"We went through the Texas state comptroller, the attorney general, the IRS, you name it," Duvall said. "We were told and continue to believe everything HEST does is above board."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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'Sweepstakes' alleged gambling operation resurfaces, shut down in Hardeeville, October 26, 2011

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