Tucked into Tuesday's City Council agenda under the "Public Safety and Licensing Committee Report" was this:
Subject: Ord. 24-09 , To amend Sec. 66-3(b) and 66-299 of the Municipal Code of the City of Racine, WI relating to Payment of forfeiture in lieu of court appearance; Penalty for violation.Clearly newsworthy, right? Well, yes. This vaguely worded motion, passed at the Dec. 7 Public Safety and Licensing Committee meeting, may significantly cut back video gambling in the city.
State law allows Class B liquor license holders to install up to five video gambling machines. Several local bars and restaurants, as well as hundreds of other Class B license holders around Wisconsin, have taken advantage of the law as a way to make more money.
But several other businesses lacking Class B licenses - such as convenience stores - are also installing video gaming machines. That's technically a violation of the state law, which allows local governments to seize the machines, with money inside, and fine the businesses $500 per machine.
The local ordinance passed by the City Council on Tuesday night reflects the state law. It changes city code to allow a $500 fine per illegal machine and seizure of the machines. Section 66-299 of the city code previously allowed a court to order police to seize the machines, but did not include a fine.
So what does all of this mean?
It seems the city is gearing up a local effort of some kind to control video gambling in the city. As it stands, several local businesses are now in danger of receiving a $2,500 fine (most places have five machines) and seizure of their games. As to whether it happens is yet to be seen.
As for the obscure wording of the agenda item, that's my mistake. We need to pay closer attention to agenda items, particularly ones written predominantly in the language of city code.