Game over for majority of adult arcades in Jacksonville
99 sites condemned as of late Tuesday afternoon
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the majority of adult arcades in Jacksonville, it's game over, as the arcades that have simulated gambling devices are now illegal in Jacksonville.
On Monday, code enforcement visited 83 locations and 75 were closed as part of a crackdown, according to the city. The other seven locations were vacant and one site was open at the time of inspection, but the city said the owner and employees were removing machines.
On Tuesday, city inspectors went to the remaining sites to shut them down. As of about 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, 99 locations were condemned. According to the city, eight other locations complied -- seven were vacant and all machines were removed from another location.
The city said a new location was discovered Tuesday on Shirley Avenue and a five-day cease-and-desist letter was issued to the business. The city added that two locations will require inspection Tuesday evening.
The deadline for the businesses to shut down was 11:59 p.m. Sunday, several months ahead of Feb. 1, 2020, the date that Jacksonville City Council members decided the businesses had to cease operations. The City Council voted earlier this month to move up the deadline and then Mayor Lenny Curry signed the bill prohibiting simulated gambling -- computer games that operate like slots and pay out cash -- and banning fish tables -- an electronic game in which players shoot simulated fish for cash prizes. The crackdown began last week.
Recent protests by employees and supporters have not kept the city from moving ahead with plans to close the arcades that have simulated gambling.
City code enforcement inspectors and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Monday posted condemned signs at arcades that still had games inside the rooms. City officials said last week that the owners were given five days' notice to comply with the new city law banning the games. The buildings were condemned because the city said they are a public nuisance.
Some who live near the sites in Jacksonville -- such as Lief Olsen, who lives near a game room on the Westside -- said it's about time.
"I am sorry for the people who lost their jobs, but the ones who are losing out more are the people that lose their money in these places," Olsen said.
On Monday, News4Jax went to many of the sites, including Vegas Palms on Atlantic Boulevard, where code enforcement put up a stop work order and then a cease-and-desist order, which was dated Oct. 24 -- not Oct. 21, Monday's date. The Copa on Normandy Boulevard was open in the morning, but later in the day, a sign had been posted, saying it's closed.
One woman, who said her first name is Tonya, said the city should rethink shutting down that site.
"This was a real comfortable place to play at. It didn't have the tables and all of that drama like the rest of them did," Tonya said.
A viewer also sent News4Jax a photo showing code enforcement and police at an arcade at North Edgewood and Commonwealth avenues, where a security guard was shot and killed during a robbery in August.
News4Jax found one site on University Boulevard that was still open Monday. Employees at Lucky's did not want to talk on camera, but said they have until Wednesday to stay open. The mayor's office confirmed that. The reason: Lucky's was not inspected until late last week.
The city had threatened to arrest owners and employees if the game rooms were still open and operating the games. That has not happened. As for the condemning of sites, the city has cited the buildings as unsafe because the games are a public nuisance.
An attorney for the adult arcades said they are looking at their options. Kelly Mathis said that even though they lost on an emergency appeal to stop the shutdown, he is still hoping the judge will conduct a hearing on the matter. He is also questioning why the buildings have been condemned and why owners are not allowed inside to remove equipment.
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