Jax aldermen to consider limiting number of gaming parlors

By Nick Kovatch on December 21 at 12:37pm

Jacksonville City Council is considering creating separate liquor licenses for gaming parlors.

Only establishments with a tavern or restaurant liquor license can get gaming machines. City attorney Dan Beard says the proposal would allow City Council to limit the number of gaming parlors in Jacksonville.

Right now, a gaming parlor could ask for a restaurant or tavern liquor license. For instance, Beard says Lucy’s Place applied for and received a restaurant license despite the fact it makes most of its revenue off of gaming terminals.

“While the city would get their share of revenues from the gaming devices themselves, they’re not a typical restaurant or tavern where they’re selling a lot of alcohol or food,” says Beard. “Therefore, the city is not receiving sales tax on those items. In other words, we’re granting licenses to entities that are purportedly running a restaurant selling very little food or to a tavern selling very little alcohol, but rather using that license as an opportunity to have gaming devices.

Alderman Mike Wankel likes the proposal.

“The local business owner is concerned because if the average citizen can go play a gaming machine in a non-bar establishment then that creates less traffic to their bar, tavern or restaurant,” says Wankel. “A lot of the bars serve meals during lunch and dinner, so that’s less traffic they have in their establishment which could affect them down the road.”

Alderman Tony Williams has his reasons for limiting the number of gaming parlors.

“The only time I’ve heard people really be vocal is when they thought we were going to have like gambling casinos here in Jacksonville,” says Williams. “I was trying to tell them it wasn’t going to be like that, but at the same time we don’t want to get where we have so many gambling parlors in Jacksonville. I don’t think that would help embellish us as a city by any means.”

Beard also suggested City Council consider charging more for gaming terminals. Currently, the city charges $35 for each gaming machine. Beard says many other municipalities charge at least $100.

The city has received nearly $99,000 over the past year from gaming machines.

City Council will discuss the topic again shortly after the new year.