Warner Robins council considers strictest rules for gaming machines, plus require cameras

chwright@macon.comOctober 1, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- City Council reviewed Monday a gaming machine ordinance that would enact the strictest local regulations allowed under new state law, as well as add an additional requirement for security cameras.

The council read the ordinance, which will be read a second time Oct. 15 before the council takes a final vote.

Warner Robins is the latest city to review its regulations of coin-operated amusement game machines since the state Legislature passed a bill in its 2012 session that allows local governments to regulate the industry. Macon passed its ordinance, which puts in place the toughest laws allowed, last month.

It’s a common argument: that businesses with gaming machines often circumvent state laws and operate the machines as gambling devices for additional revenue.

Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, said the organization supports any regulations that require better transparency of revenues earned through the machines’ operations. He said few of his organization’s members own the machines and must often compete against businesses gaining illegal revenue with the gaming machines.

“We don’t find that people are lining up three deep to win a bag of potato chips,” Tudor said.

The Warner Robins council has considered regulations of the machines during the past year but has not passed an ordinance.

“We were waiting to see what the state was going to do,” said Councilman Mike Brashear. “Now, we’re getting clear direction from the state, and that allows us to go for it and set our own ordinances.”

The ordinance being considered by the council includes the same regulations Macon passed. Under the proposal, businesses can own up to nine gaming machines, which are in plain view to all customers and have signs informing customers that money payouts and prizes worth more than $5 are illegal. Owners also would be required to report monthly earnings to the city.

Earnings from the machines cannot be more than half of the business’ income.

In addition, Warner Robins’ ordinance would require businesses with gaming machines to install security cameras to record all register areas. Businesses would be subject to monthly inspections of the cameras, which would be required to be operational at all times in case of a crime.

“If they have to put a $5,000 to $7,000 security system in there, that may deter them” from installing the machines for illegally generated revenue, said Councilman Paul Shealy.

Police officials have told the council that businesses with gaming machines are popular targets for robberies.

In an e-mail to council members, City Attorney Jim Elliott said the security camera provision isn’t specifically mentioned in the new state statute but “is a valid exercise of the police powers” of the city.

“This is the same as required by ordinance for establishments that have packaged sales of alcohol,” which has been in effect since the late 1980s, Elliott said in the e-mail.

In other actions Monday, the council voted unanimously to move $5,900 of unassigned funds to the Redevelopment Agency account for full-time salaries. Brashear and Councilman Mike Daley said the money will fund the assistant that council approved earlier this year to move from part-time to full-time.

Angela Doersam assists the RDA and Community Development Department under the new arrangement.

The council also approved $77,000 in the purchase orders to install traffic lights at Tabor Drive and North Davis Drive. Council members agreed to also assess whether additional street lights need to be installed in the area.

Council members also gave the go-ahead for city engineering to extend Walls Street to the end of the Huntington Middle School property.

The project will cost $178,000, leaving $222,000 for the street to be extended further once the city decides what to do with city-owned property once slated for a sports complex.

The project is listed in the 2001 special purpose local option sales tax.

The council also told the city engineer to use $110,000 of 2001 SPLOST funds to install a right-turn lane on Leisure Lake Drive at Moody Road.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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