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Clarence Ray "Bucky" Jernigan, owner of Randleman, N.C.-based Heath Cigarette & Music Service, also known as Heath Amusements, is in trouble because of police allegations that his lucrative business is built atop an empire of illegal video-poker dealings.

Video-poker machines are found in convenience stores, laundries, auto-parts stores, bars and restaurants, and their profits are split with their owners. Jernigan's company is headed to court Monday in a public-nuisance case that could shatter a basic premise in the industry that poker jackpots can be awarded for tickets worth hundreds of dollars as long as the winner redeems them only in increments of $10 per day.

The lawsuit contends that the law limits prizes to $10 per jackpot, redeemable in merchandise only, no cash. A ruling against Jernigan could close his business and, ultimately, force the industry to rewire its machines in ways that make them much less attractive to gamblers.

State government also will argue that Jernigan has amassed a fortune by conspiring with convenience stores and other businesses across the county to make illegal cash payouts from the video-poker machines he leases to them. Such payouts, usually in exchange for tickets the machine dispenses, keep addicted gamblers coming back to games on which they lose heavily over time.

In other people news, oil giant ConocoPhillips named president and CEO James J. Mulva to the additional post of chairman. Mulva will succeed current chairman Archie W. Dunham when he retires on Sept. 30.

ConocoPhillips said the naming of Mulva to replace Dunham was consistent with the terms of the merger. Dunham was the CEO of Conoco, while Mulva was his counterpart at Phillips. Dunham will also retire from the company's board.
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