Miami police, City Hall at odds over game machines

Posted on Wednesday, 01.12.11

Miami police, City Hall at odds over game machines

The Miami Police Department and City Hall disagree over the interpretation of a state law on amusement machines.

BY DAVID OVALLE

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

At Cafe Raul in Hialeah, diners can feed dollars into an All Fruit Bonus video gaming machine. Though it looks like a traditional slot machine, the game — allowed by the city — gives winners nothing more than a free game or two and a few minutes of amusement, says Miguel Rotella, owner of the machines.

But in Miami, police say the machines are illegal — and the owners subject to arrest.

“Everything is legal. We’re not delinquents,” said Rotella, who had 10 similar machines seized by police in Miami cafes in October. “They’re lumping us in with the mafia.”

Whether the video game machines constitute illegal gambling or not is at the heart of an escalating conflict between Miami Police and City Hall.

Miami police say the machines are illegal, that the games are based on pure chance dressed up as “amusement.” But the adult arcade industry insists the machines are legal because they are programmed differently than casino slots, and can be mastered by skilled players.

The flash point came last month when Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito publicly accused Mayor Tomás Regalado of attempting to interfere with an October raid on establishments that operate the machines.

Last year, the mayor successfully championed an ordinance, modeled after a Hialeah ordinance and crafted with help from the arcade industry, that allows the machines to run as long as operators pay a registration fee. The ordinance stresses the machines cannot be used for gambling. Continue reading