WARNER ROBINS -- Amusement gaming machine regulations in Warner Robins could soon be stricter and clearer if City Council passes an ordinance amendment it is considering.
City Council began exploring changes to the existing amusement game ordinance after Warner Robins attorney Kelly Burke, who represents two clients seeking waivers to the ordinance, said the ordinance wasnt clear in its distance requirements or applied equally to all.
We went back and looked at the ordinance and found some things that werent in there, said Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, who has taken lead on the drafted amendment with Councilman Paul Shealy.
The current ordinance says distances from businesses with amusement gaming machines must be as far from a school and church as the state alcohol regulations dictate, but that law gives two distances. The current ordinance also allows waivers under City Council approval, requires no security cameras and allows three violations before revocation of the gaming license.
A draft of the new ordinance eliminates waivers, clarifies the distance restrictions, requires security cameras and beefs up penalties.
City Council agreed at its Thursday pre-council meeting to table the amendments while City Attorney Jim Elliott researches the legal basis for the changes. It is tentatively on the July 2 council agenda.
Robbins said the three waiver applications are on pause until council takes action.
Now that theyve set what the rules are and its specific, it will make it better for everyone, Burke said. If they take out the waiver, we will have to deal with it.
Robbins said the proposed waiver abolishment makes the restrictions more straight forward.
If we dont want the coin-operated machines close to the schools, why would we give them a waiver? she said.
When Burke addressed council this month, he suggested the city pick one distance, as the city code referenced a state law that included 100 yards from a church and 200 yards from a school.
He also insisted a security camera requirement for all establishments that have gaming systems and that the determining revenue percentage from the gaming machines be changed from yearly to monthly.
The draft accepts all of his recommendations.
If passed, any establishment with a coin-operated amusement machine must be at least 100 yards from a school or church. The establishment must be able to provide monthly receipts that show revenues from the gaming machines to be less than 50 percent.
The establishment must also have security cameras installed at all times.
The vast majority of our armed robberies happen in establishments that have gaming machines, said Tabitha Pugh, spokeswoman for the Warner Robins Police Department.
Eleven of 24 armed robberies in 2011 and one of three armed robberies so far this year occurred at businesses with amusement gaming machines, according to preliminary statistics Pugh provided.
The reason for the security cameras is if a crime occurs, its very important and its very helpful if (the police) have an image to go off of, Pugh said.
The drafted ordinance also reduces the possible number of violations to two. The first violation of the regulations would result in a license suspension of up to six months.
A second offense would result in permanent or temporary revocation. Fines could be up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail.
Robbins said council has asked Elliott to find out if they can legally restrict the number of businesses with amusement gaming machines in any given area by implementing a distance requirement between the licensed establishments.
We just need to try to keep our community a little safer, Robbins said.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.