Homeland Security gets involved in Jacksonville adult arcade crackdown

64 businesses so far handed cease-and-desist orders this week

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Allyson Henning - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The federal government got involved Tuesday in the adult arcade crackdown in Jacksonville.

The Department of Homeland Security is going along with city code enforcement inspectors and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, warning businesses to get rid of machines that simulate gambling, like slot machines and fish tables.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 64 arcades had been visited by inspectors. They were left cease-and-desist notices for the simulated gambling machines.

Any business found violating the order faces a $250 penalty for each device per day. The arcades can remain open if they have other legal attractions.

Some of the owners told News4Jax that Homeland Security agents told them to get rid of the fish tables by Monday or face arrest. Those fish tables are apparently from China, and the concern is how they ended up in the U.S.

It was expected that some of the games would be confiscated on Tuesday by inspectors. But that has not happened yet.

WATCH: Department of Homeland Security involved in adult arcade crackdown

News4Jax asked attorney Kelly Mathis, who represents some of the game rooms, about that possibility.

"That is not part of the ordinance," Mathis said.

He said there is no basis for the government to seize the machines.

"They are not declaring these machines illegal or unlawful except in violation of the ordinance, which makes them a nuisance. That doesn't give them the right to seize the machines, to take the machines," Mathis said.

News4Jax tried to talk to inspectors Tuesday on the scene, but they declined to comment about the actions, only saying they have gone to several sites.  

As the Jacksonville adult arcades prepare to shut their doors for good, the City Council is discussing ways to help the thousands of employees who could soon be out of work.

More than 2,700 employees at adult arcades are worried about losing their jobs, according to sources with the arcades.

To help, the city has partnered with CareerSource to hold a job fair on Thursday, Oct. 24. The event will be from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Emmett Reed Community Center at 1093 West 6th St. in Jacksonville.

VIEW EVENT: City Council Members Offer Assistance To Displaced Employees

"Providing this opportunity to displaced employees is important in helping them transition into a viable career," City Council member Aaron Bowman said.

"I understand the challenges that displaced workers will experience. My purpose in co-hosting this job fair is to assist in connecting the employees with employment opportunities and options," City Council member Ju'Coby Pittman added.

A public meeting on Assistance for Displaced Workers was held at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Conference Room A at City Hall. Adult arcade workers were encouraged to come to the meeting to discuss solutions with city leaders. The goal was to help ease their transition once these businesses close for good.

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