The Florida Gaming Control Commission issued about 26 letters to arcades across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast to stop using illegal slot or gambling machines.
The Rio Arcade in Port St. Lucie received a warning from the state agency regulating and enforcing gambling in May 2023. More than 3 months later on Sept. 14, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office seized 140 illegal gambling machines and arrested 30 to 40 people after a raid on the arcade over illegal gambling.
Treasure Bay Arcade in Fort Pierce, which was raided Tuesday, didn’t receive any warning letters from the commission but the agency did receive complaints about the venue.
WPTV’s Ethan Stein found another arcade in Sebastian, which received two warnings, continuing to operate slot machines in a building with signs posing about cash payouts.
According to Florida law, adult arcade rooms are violating state law if they offer slot machines. According to the letters from the Florida Gaming Control Commission, slot machines are lawful only on tribal property and within betting facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Eric Carr, who is a spokesperson for the Florida Gaming Control Commission, said letters are sent after it receives a complaint and it puts the operator on notice about their role in running an illegal gambling house. He said illegal slot machines dont have consumer protections, like a guarantee about a jackpot getting paid.
They’re just ripping off Floridians because when you go in there and they just dial down the winnings,” Carr said. “They are going to steal every dollar you put in the machine.”
He said these arcades are often known to increase winnings on the machines to draw people into their facilities, especially when they first open for business.
Records from the Florida Gaming Control Commission show it has received more than 300 complaints about arcades across Martin, Palm Beach, Indian River, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. The commission has only been active as of 2023.
A review of those complaints includes people complaining about not being paid, family members losing all their money and people complaining about games being rigged.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said he plans to raid one illegal arcade a week until they all close in his county on Tuesday. He said authorities have begun to go after these arcades now because it has the capability to prove in court these accusations after going into machines and pulling out evidence like cash.
“Weve acted on their tutelage and we know we have train staff who can take the insides out of this machine and tell you what exactly went in and what went out,” the sheriff said.
The possession of a slot machine at any location other than a licensed facility is subject to a fine or penalty worth up to $10,000 per machine, according to the Florida Gaming Control Commission.