Law enforcement officials in Florida are intensifying efforts to shut down underground gaming facilities, with a recent raid on the Rio Arcade in Port St. Lucie resulting in the confiscation of around 100 gambling machines.
Sheriff Ken Mascara, speaking to CBS-12, emphasized the illegality of these games, stating, “These games are all illegal. This place tends to prey on the elderly, who bring their social security check here and lose it all.”
The Rio Arcade raid is part of a broader crackdown in South Florida on gambling arcades that offer slot-like games and cash payouts, which authorities argue violate state gaming laws.
During the raid, everyone present in the Rio Arcade now faces charges, with the owner and manager facing the most severe charges related to running and operating an illegal enterprise.
Sheriff Mascara made it clear that these activities are unmistakably illegal, stating, “Every person that was playing when we entered will be arrested. There’s going to be 30 to 40 people that are going to have to deal with a court case. You would have to have your head under a rock not to know that this is illegal.”
Operators of these establishments often label the games as “games of skill” in an attempt to circumvent gaming laws. Despite previous crackdowns, these arcades continue to reappear by exploiting legal loopholes.
While law enforcement is clamping down on illegal betting, the Seminole Tribe, which operates the largest casinos in the state, has received a favorable ruling regarding sports betting.
In June, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the tribe and Governor Ron DeSantis, compelling the Department of the Interior to reinstate an agreement designating the tribe as the state’s exclusive sports betting operator.
However, legal experts suggest that the ruling could open the door to additional legal challenges. A 2018 constitutional amendment in Florida prohibits further gaming expansion, and some argue that state courts may view the Seminoles’ agreement as conflicting with the will of the people, potentially superseding the compact agreement.
While plaintiffs have appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the Florida agreement could set a precedent for gaming expansion outside of Indian lands nationwide, betting appears poised to resume in Florida, despite potential legal hurdles.
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