Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are Some Arcade Games Legal? One Company's Design Might Require the Necessary Skill to Make Them Legal, State Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Are Some Arcade Games Legal? One Company's Design Might Require the Necessary Skill to Make Them Legal, State Says

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL LaFORGIA

A subtle difference in the way some adult arcade games are programmed by their manufacturers raises a possibility that until now was all but unthinkable to local authorities: a perfectly legal game room in Duval County.

"It's possible," Assistant State Attorney Steven Siegel said Wednesday. "It is a wrinkle."

The question of whether these slot-style games, which award tickets that are redeemed for Visa gift cards, require skill or luck has triggered legal debates in Duval County and across the state.

Siegel said he was convinced all of these games were alike and that none required any skill -- until Tuesday, when he learned some games might incorporate more skill than their illegal counterparts. For example, games made by Minneapolis-based Spectre Gaming might have genuine elements of skill built in, which would make them legal under Florida law. The company's Web site claims that its arcade games underwent "independent lab certification" that proved compliance.

Siegel said he'll know how best to navigate this boggy new legal terrain by Sept. 15, when he expects to have accounted for what sorts of machines local arcades offer. Even then, he said, it probably won't mean dozens of arrests right away.

"I'll try to have a dialog with those businesses that we feel are operating outside the law," Siegel said, and then use "reasonable means" to make them comply.

In the meantime, about a dozen Duval County arcade owners are worried about police raids. In October, Conrad Rowe, 55, and his general manager were arrested on third-degree felony charges of operating a gambling house off Florida A1A in Mayport. If convicted, the men, who last year opened one of the first arcades in Duval County, could face up to five years in prison.

While other arcades might be using some legal machines, said Siegel, who is prosecuting Rowe on Sept. 25, Rowe's machines definitely are illegal.

After Rowe's arrest, a handful of arcade owners filed for a temporary Circuit Court injunction against more raids. But those hopes were dashed Monday when a judge dismissed their request -- and effectively lifted an informal moratorium on arrests of game room owners in Duval County. …

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