It looks like the party is over for 8-liner Game Room operators in Duval County.
The game rooms have been operating freely in Duval County since 2007, but now the sheriff there is putting game room owners on notice.
Sheriff's officials hand delivered letters to game room operators on Friday. The letters warn them that they have until Sept. 30 to voluntarily close their businesses if they are not in compliance with the law.
"I think it's in everybody's opinion that there's no way possible that you can continue to function as a legitimate business without, you know, doing some type of illegal gambling and actually doing cash payouts," Duval County Sheriff Romeo Ramirez said.
Ramirez said he is dead serious about cracking down on the game rooms. He has made a decision to take an active role in identifying, dismantling and convicting gambling facility owners, operators and employees for gambling offenses. That includes the offence of criminal conspiracy to promote and or keep a gambling place, which is a felony.
On Monday, at a game room on Highway 44 in Duval County, just outside of San Diego, a man who was supposedly in charge was less than forthcoming.
"Come on dude, you're making it bad for business," he said. "Everybody's already taking off. If we're going to close down by the 30th, we need to make as much money as we can. You need to leave."
The sheriff's new crackdown policy on game rooms is in direct response to an armed robbery that took place last week at the Stardust Game Room, in which two masked men wielding guns stole $2,500 in cash. During that incident, the operator of the game room pulled out a gun and fired shots at the getaway car. The suspects were later caught, but the County said the incident just makes it clear that the game rooms are easy targets for robbers and simply too dangerous for the public.
However, it should be noted that, over the past nine months, the County has taken in over a half a million dollars in revenues by selling permits to game room operators.
"With that revenue, we have roofed the courthouse, we've put a new roof on the Civic Center in Freer, we put in about $40,000 worth of air conditioning in the Benavides Civic Center, we bought some equipment to the tune of about $300,000," Duval County Judge Abel Aragon said.
Aragon said they have invested those revenues back into the County, and not having that revenue will have an impact; but the judge said the County will survive without that money.
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