Game over at adult arcades

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A Troy man was charged with 40 counts of possession of a gambling device Tuesday, as Troy police raided an adult video arcade.

John Wood, 57, of Troy was arrested at Park Place on South Three Notch St., and charged as a result of an operation targeting illegal video gaming devices.

"What we're acting on is a Court of Civil Appeals ruling that these types of machines are illegal," said Police Chief Anthony Everage.

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The city had given notice to three adult arcade business license recipients that they had until July 28 at 12 noon

to either comply with state law or face arrest and seizure of any machines if they were found to violate state law.

One adult video arcade, Wild Bill's Arcade on North Three Notch St. voluntarily complied with the order, removing their machines on Sunday, said City Clerk Alton Starling.

In all, 46 machines were seized by police during Tuesday's operation. The Troy Police Department was assisted by the 12th Circuit Court District Attorney's Office, the state's Attorney General's Office and specialists from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.

Three other establishments were also raided and video gaming machines confiscated.

According to police records, arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanors, in addition to Wood, were: Teresa Baker, 30, of Glenwood at Sunny South on Hwy. 231 and David Gray, 64, of Goshen at Grays Recycling on South Three Notch St.

A fourth individual from Shoppers Stop was allowed a reprieve from arrest to arrange child care.

Each individual was charged with possession of a gambling device. Gray was charged with four counts.

"We feel comfortable with the actions we took," Everage said.

"If we learn of other machines, we will continue to take the same actions," he said.

The action came after the Troy City Council banned video gaming in the city, following state law.

"There is a strong sentiment in the city against this type of activity," Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said. "We are carrying out the wishes of the city council."

Lunsford defended the city's actions.

"The city was more than fair - all we had licensed in the city were given 30 days written notice to bring their business into strict compliance with the law," he said.

Of the three business licensees issued letters, Lunsford said only two had actually gone into operation.

The third requested a refund of its license fee and requested the city to void its license, he said.

For some in Troy, the video gaming issue is more about morality than an issue of legality.

Dr. Ed Walter, pastor at Troy's First Baptist Church, was the closest church to an adult arcade.

"I'm glad they're being closed because I think they needed to be. I'm happy that the city took action," he said.

"They've done the right thing for morals for our community because we know that gambling attracts people who want something for nothing - the get-rich-quick syndrome - they're not attracting good, honest citizens,"

Walter said.

"From a leadership perspective, I think it's going to help the community to be rid of (video gaming) and not have to deal with the results of it," he said.

Walter added he thought the city council's stance was an issue of public protection, similar to that of the nation having a standing army.

"I think part of the government's role is to do what's best for its citizens

I think they have the responsibility to protect (the citizens) in other ways, too - morals being a part of that," he said.

Attorney Norman Hurst, Jr, who represents West Management, Inc., the owner of Park Place, held a different opinion.

The sheriff's department served notice to the mayor Tuesday of West's intent to seek a permanent injunction and a temporary restraining order.

The civil request was filed with the court on Friday, however no judge was available to rule on the request - the three circuit judges and the district judge are out of town attending a conference, according to the circuit clerk's office.

Hurst said it was attempt to stop Tuesday's seizure of

the equipment.

"We don't feel (these machines) violate the constitution of the State of Alabama," he said.

Hurst said his clients were prepared to file a civil suit claiming city officials acted inappropriately in seizing the equipment.

Everage said his department continues to investigate reports of illegal gaming devices.