Wadesboro passes ordinance to limit electronic games

WADESBORO — Wadesboro City Council passed a new ordinance on March 13 to combat excessive gambling businesses popping up within city limits.

Historically, there have been problems associated with many of these electronic game businesses, including armed robbery or fraud, requiring the police department to constantly dispatch resources to the stores.

“We get frequent calls to the police,” said city manager David Edwards. “Whether it’s disagreements between guests and management, noise complaints or wandering – issues like this.”

Nearby businesses have also expressed concern over crowds gathering outside electronic gaming venues. Their concerns are whether their customers or employees will feel comfortable going from business to car with the crowds of gamers.

Electronic game businesses have been on the minds of Edwards and city council members ever since Edwards started in that position. The rest of North Carolina has faced an ever-changing landscape in this type of business for the past 10 years.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Edwards said. “Council, community members have all expressed concerns about the prolific nature of the number of electronic game operations taking place in the city.”

At one time, gambling businesses were illegal, but as the law has changed over the years, these businesses have adapted to meet legal requirements.

The hope in Wadesboro all those years was that the North Carolina General Assembly would strengthen the statutes of this industry, according to Edwards.

“There have been three or four major state-level landmark cases that have come before the highest levels of the North Carolina court system that … established some priority in how law enforcement and municipalities have dealt with these kinds of issues,” Edwards said. .

Another case is set to begin at the North Carolina Supreme Court sometime next week, but Edwards doesn’t think the verdict will be “quick” enough to wipe out the electronic game companies.

“In the absence of changes from the General Assembly and in the absence of any decision throughout this matter in the North Carolina Supreme Court, the council has determined that we would like to strengthen our own municipal ordinances,” Edwards said. “We don’t have the ability to arrest anyone. We do not have the ability to deny them their right to open a business…”

The new order

Prior to March 13, the city had no ordinance related to electronic game businesses. The new ordinance was designed to address the city’s concerns and to help limit problems associated with the industry.

A new electronic game business wishing to open in Wadesboro cannot be located within 400 meters of the property line of a church, place of worship, public or private schools, library, parks, daycare or residential zoning district. Two electronic game businesses cannot be located within half a mile of each other, measuring in a straight line.

The business must operate in a facility with the correct certificate of occupancy. Hours of operation are limited to 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. No neon or flashing lights or floating devices may be visible from the exterior. Tinted windows or curtains are prohibited. Windows facing the street must have an unobstructed view inside. All spaces within the company must also remain open for unimpeded access by government officials during office hours.

All electronic game operations must take place on the ground floor of a building. There must be two parking spaces required per machine and one space for each employee. A security provider must be present on site if there are more than three slot machines.

The business owner must also sign an affidavit stating that there will be no cash payments, promotions, and that they will not operate any slot machines.

These requirements in the ordinance only apply to future new gaming establishments. Edwards said the city doesn’t have the authority to apply those rules to existing businesses.

If an existing gaming site changes ownership, the new owner will need to come to the city, apply for a new zoning permit, and meet these new ordinance requirements. Ownership changes occur frequently, about once per quarter, according to Edwards.

“The goal is not to close these businesses yet,” Edwards said. “It’s to have a bit more control over frequency, frequency being how many businesses are populated in the city, how they operate, making sure they’re safer and they’re located in safe places in the community…”

Between 10 and 12 arcade and gaming businesses are in Wadesboro at any one time, according to Edwards. This number changes almost every month as one closes, changes ownership, renovates or a new one appears.

The electronic game company does not pay any sales tax to the city. There is no operations-based revenue coming into Wadesboro, other than property tax and water and sewer bills.

“We just want to make sure that if and when they work, they do it in a way that’s safe and healthy for their neighbors,” Edwards said. “We want to make sure that everyone is fair in serving their customers.”

Going forward, Edwards believes the ordinance will not only limit crime and the volume of calls, but create a safer environment for everyone and attract new revenue-generating businesses to the city.

Contact Liz O’Connell at 704-994-5471 or [email protected]

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