A draft Sumter County ordinance would attempt to crack down on adult playrooms, which officials and residents say are hotspots for criminal activity.
The county’s special planning and zoning master will hold a hearing to consider the draft ordinance at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 20 at the Everglades Recreation Center in the Villages. The commissioners will take the order at their next meeting on January 11 at the same location.
At least 16 adult gambling halls were operating in Sumter County this year and they generated more than 560 police calls in the first eight months of 2021. Sheriff’s deputies made nearly 100 arrests and executed 36 warrants . Three arcades were broken into.
MPs responded to 69 arcade-related narcotics crimes, 18 crimes against people and a dozen drug overdoses during that period. Most police calls arrived between midnight and 6 a.m.
They operate under names such as Fantasy Entertainment Center, DreamLiners Arcade or Jack and Jill Adult Superstore.
Residents of Panasoffkee Lake, which has about a half-dozen adult arcades some of which are open 24 hours a day, told commissioners at a meeting last week that the arcades have made their community unsafe with many drug and theft incidents.
Authorities will attempt to regulate the arcades through the county’s land use code, restricting locations and setting other standards. The gambling halls circumvent Florida gambling laws by offering prizes to video game winners.
A draft of the proposed order was not included on Monday’s hearing agenda, but an earlier version prepared by County Prosecutor Jennifer Rey sets out the restrictions.
Arcades, also known as fish games, internet cafes and competition cafes, would be permitted in commercial or industrial zoned areas with a special use permit. This means that each new arcade would need county approval.
Adult arcades opened after the ordinance comes into force could not be located closer than 1,000 feet from a residence or less than 2,500 feet from a school, day care center, or daycare, church, public park, playground or library.
Under the proposed ordinance, no existing arcade business could be considered in violation if a new license is issued for one of the other uses.
Several residents of Panasoffkee Lake told commissioners last week that the arcades have made their community unsafe.
“There is nothing good going out of these arcades,” said Wayne Cassidy, adding that a school bus stop is near one of them.
Vince Phelps says he always carries a gun when he leaves before dawn for work due to drug activity on the streets. He said anything prominently on residential porches was susceptible to theft.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods tried to crack down on adult arcades, but found it difficult. After a raid, the sheriff is required to store all seized devices until a court hearing.
Florida lawmakers have also discussed passing state law to regulate adult video arcades.