A Florida woman was arrested over the weekend on 51 counts of possession of slot machines after authorities identified her as the operator of a Tallahassee illegal gaming operation.
Tanisha Lovett-Austin, 45, was additionally charged with maintaining a gambling house after the several-month inquiry involving the Tallahassee Midtown Arcade Amusement Center, according to WTXL TV.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office began their investigation into the arcade in April based on a tip that there was illegal activity taking place, the report said. Sheriff’s deputies searched the Midtown operation on May 23 and also inspected five other local internet cafes.
Lovett-Austin claimed she deposited money into a drop safe. But she added that she was not responsible for the operation’s overall finances, WTXL said.
She did not know who owns the business or who owns the building,” according to an application for an arrest warrant quoted by the news report. “Lovett-Austin said that she only knew her supervisor as ‘Debbie.’”
Lovett-Austin was being held Saturday. Her bond was set at $13,750, WTXL said.
In searches of three of the six operations, authorities found $21,452.52, 164 monitors, 193 computers and 23 gambling machines, according to WCTV Eyewitness News.
The other internet cafes suspected of illegal activity include: Zyber 2 Inc. aka Euro Boutique, Southern Arcade, Tallahassee North Arcade Amusement Center, Cyber Connections, and a fifth one whose name remains unknown, WCTV said.
WCTV further reported the internet cafes were closed. Nearby business owners welcomed the news about the operations closing.
John Buck, owner of Fast Signs, located near Tallahassee Midtown Arcade Amusement Center, told the TV station, “We knew that something was going on. We suspected that it … wasn’t legal, but we didn’t have any evidence….”
WCTV reported that cashiers in the businesses paid cash to winning customers. Based on the number of points won, cashiers would pay patrons money.
The patrons also paid upfront to get a code to use in slot machines or other on-premises gambling devices, the report said.
“We went in once to look at it. It was just dark, and everyone was just on computers playing games. And you didn’t know…not having done it — you didn’t know what that really meant. You thought it was gambling,” Buck said, based on his visit to the neighboring arcade, WCTV said.
Police Seize Gaming Devices in Escambia County
Elsewhere in Florida, in September Escambia County authorities seized some 100 slot machines and various online gaming equipment during court-ordered searches of three businesses, according to news reports.
The slots and gambling computers were taken out of one of the businesses — Oasis Bar and Hookah Lounge on Mobile Highway — by officials. They were then placed in a semi-truck before being hauled away, WEAR-TV said.
The other two businesses suspected of gambling operations were a possible medical supply store on 9th Avenue and an unidentified establishment on Chief’s Way, the station reported.
Also, in March, owners of Racetrack Bingo in Fort Walton Beach were ordered to forfeit $6 million to the federal government. They were convicted of operating an illegal gambling business that bilked local charities out of $8 million over eight years.
Limited Gambling in Sunshine State
Florida has racetracks and tribal gaming venues where gambling is allowed in the state. But in May, the Seminole tribe of Florida announced it stopped paying $350 million a year in revenue-share payments to the state.
In April, state Senate Republicans negotiated a new draft compact deal that included sports betting, roulette, and craps. But state lawmakers ran out of time to get it approved.