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Florida Gaming Commission issues warning about gaming arcades

The Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) just sent out a warning to Jacksonville officials concerning their attempt to legalize “adult arcades” in the city. According to the FGCC, establishments of that sort with casino-style electronic devices would breach the state’s ban on slot machines in Duval County.

The Seminole Tribe runs the gaming industry in Florida. The tribe also oversees six casinos in the area. While Florida does not permit slot machines operating in certain areas, they have no problem with pari-mutuel wagering as well as card clubs, including nonhouse banked games.

Racinos in Broward and Miami Dade counties are also allowed to have slot machines. In addition, the Florida Lottery makes daily games available and participates in Mega Millions and Powerball. A number of charities are also allowed to provide minor games of chance. Besides the games mentioned above, every other form of gambling is considered illegal.

The letter sent by the commissioners claimed that if the officials were to bring back electronic games, it would come into conflict with the law that banned slot machines in several parts of the state.

Most of the electronic devices in the city were shut down in 2019 after the machines were said to be “public nuisances.” However, according to the city officials, the machines have re-emerged in the market after three years and a pandemic after the ban.

In the letter, the Executive Director of FGCC, Louis Trombetta, wrote, “ Slot machines in Florida are generally illegal. And slot machine gambling is not specifically allowed in Duval County.” The state constitution would have to be changed for slot machines to be legal in Duval County.

After Jacksonville’s ban of “simulated gambling devices” in 2019, around 140 to 160 Internet cafes were shut down. The businesses were located across shopping centers as well as in separate buildings; however, Garret Dennis, the City Council member who filed the bill to legalize, believes that this mass shutdown was not due to the violation of gambling laws by using slot machines.

Dennis responded to the FGCC’s letter and revealed that the proposal would be on hold. He disclosed his intention to stop making any further moves until General Counsel Jason Teal’s office informed him if the proposal would lead to illegal gambling.

Dennis added that if they chose to regulate the use of slot machines, the consumers would be safe because the location of the devices would always be known. However, he added, “I do not want to put any of my colleagues in the position of voting on any illegal activity or sanctioning it as well.”

Over 50 illegal gambling arrests

Jacksonville and Florida have both struggled to figure out how to manage establishments that used slot machines that resembled casino-style games. Their investigation led to around 57 illegal gambling arrests in 2013, as well as an alleged $300 million money laundering and racketeering scheme that involved the Allied Veterans of the World charity based in St. Augustine.

The charity reportedly had several gaming centers in Florida, and just a few hours after the arrests were made, Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll turned in her resignation letter due to her connections to the organization, although she was never charged with any crime.

The Allied Veterans of the World initially claimed its only aim was to help veterans who needed counseling, food, housing and medical bills. However, the results of the investigation revealed that the only thing being helped was the pockets of the leaders of the organization who benefited from their charitable gaming operations.

The investigation produced almost five dozen arrests as well as several other gaming centers with the same kind of arcade games currently in contention. The people jailed had their charges reduced later on. Nelson Cuba, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police in Jacksonville, was placed under a year of house arrest and the others were able to stay out of prison using plea deals.

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