Troy bans video gaming

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2003

Concerned about growing numbers of video gaming arcades, the Troy city council moved this week to shut-down the gaming devices within city limits.

The Troy Police Department hand-delivered letters to three businesses Friday afternoon stating that if they did not discontinue the use of their video gaming devices within 30 days, the city would take action.

"We were waiting to see the results of the court cases that had been filed concerning the video machines," said Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. "But when it became obvious the machines were becoming prolific in Troy, the council put its foot down."

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The legality of the video gaming machines is being considered in the Alabama courts. The Attorney General has issued a ruling on the issue, but court cases on the legality are still pending. Several cities throughout the state - including Montgomery - already have banned the games.

The mayor said many of the Montgomery businesses were hoping to move their machines to Troy. One person, Lunsford said, even wanted to provide transportation from Montgomery to Troy for people to play the machines.

Police Chief Anthony Everage has worked with the city and the district attorney's office on this matter and he said the city council made the right decision.

"We're on good ground and ready to move forward toward stopping the operation of these machines in the City of Troy," he said.

The machines cited by the council include any device in which chance dominates over skill. Video gaming machines, or adult amusement games, give the player a number of credits based on the amount of money the player inserts into the machine. The player then tries to generate more credits. If the player uses all his credits, the game is over.

If the player is successful, he receives gift certificates for local businesses or shops.

Rhea McCaary manages Park Place, which operates just under 40 gaming machines on South Three Notch Street. McCaary said he was disappointed by what he read in the letter from the mayor.

"It is certainly upsetting," he said.

"Especially because we just opened business about two months ago."

When McCaary first came to Troy, he said he approached the city and was given the go ahead to operate. Since he opened, McCaary has kept his presence as quiet as possible; Park Place is a nondescript building with no visible business name.

"I knew some people didn't like it," he said. "So I've kept it low-key and not too flashy."

Neighboring businesses said McCaary's operation has not caused any problems, but the idea that the machines are there is unsettling.

"I'd rather not have them," one business owner said.

"I feel like it's an illegal operation."

Kersey's Bonded Termite Company is just up the road from Park Place but owner Glyn Kersey said he didn't know a whole lot about the operation of the machines at that location.

Kersey said he travels to Biloxi, Miss., to gamble but when it comes to video gaming, he sees no sense in spending money on something that doesn't give it back when you win.

"We just don't need it," Kersey said. "It's more or less somewhere to gamble and never win. They just flim-flam them out of their money."

McCaary said the question of legality has not been handled uniformly across the state and the law does not clearly state what is legal and what is not. He believes the games fall in the same category as other coin-operated games, the only difference being that gaming machines target adults.

"The games aren't for everybody," he said. "But they are amusement, people are not coming here to gamble; they're coming here for amusement. This is what they choose to spend their money on."

Although he believes the council's decision is "heavy-handed," he can see why the sudden interest of Montgomery gamers prompted the council to take action.

"I'd be concerned too if it looked like a big influx would be coming in," he said. "I just feel bad that they're punishing me as a result. I would certainly like to talk to the mayor and work something out. I hope we can come to some sort of happy-medium."

Two other adult amusement establishments, one on North Three Notch Street and the other Henderson Highway, also were served with letters.

Everage said if the businesses don't comply with the city's request, the TPD will "move under the guidance of the district attorney to see that the machines are removed. Any violation of the law will be prosecuted."