06/13/12 — County to eye gaming cafes

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County to eye gaming cafes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 13, 2012 1:46 PM

While there has been no crush of people wanting to open Internet or sweepstakes cafes in rural Wayne County, the county Planning Board has decided not to wait to put rules in place to regulate those businesses.

"There have been some inquiries from people wanting to go into zoned areas," Wayne County Planner Connie Price said. "In unzoned areas, there is nothing to stop them as long as they can get a driveway permit (from the state Department of Transportation). It has not been a problem in the county."

The board Tuesday night approved a proposed ordinance that would regulate the businesses countywide -- not just in the areas where there is zoning in place. The county already regulates several businesses countywide -- junkyards, billboards and adult entertainment operations.

The next step will be to take the proposal to the Wayne County commissioners who would have to hold a public hearing on it. They could approve the ordinance as written, ask for changes, or not act at all.

However, before it goes to the commissioners, Price and County Attorney Borden Parker have been asked by the Planning Board to review a requirement that the businesses be at least 300 feet from a residence.

The board asked Price and Parker to look at adding language that would allow the business to be closer than 300 feet to a residence if the person living there did not object. For example, a person might own a building within 300 feet of their home that they would like to use. However, the original proposal would not allow the building to be used for an Internet cafe. As such, board members said, the ordinance needs to include wording that would allow it.

Price said the ordinance probably would not be ready for commissioners until their July meeting.

By far most of the cafes are inside the county's municipalities, he said. Price said he knew of only two in the county. That makes sense because the owners want to be near population centers and not in sparsely populated areas, he added.

Price first brought a proposal before the Planning Board two months that would have regulated Internet cafes in the county's zoned areas. However, following some discussion, board members suggested that the operations be regulated county-wide, even in areas not zoned by the county.

The ordinance describes an Internet cafe as a, "business enterprise, whether principal or accessory, where persons utilize electronic machines or devices, including but not limited to computers and gaming terminals, to conduct games of odds or chance, including sweepstakes, and where cash, merchandise, or other items of value are redeemed or otherwise distributed, whether or not the value of such distribution is determined by electronic games played or by predetermined odds."

It excludes any lotteries approved by the state.

According to the ordinance, the business' activity defines an electronic gaming operation, not the name.

The ordinance would allow an electronic gaming operation as a permitted use in Community Shopping, Light Industry, or Height districts as well as in all commercial operations in unzoned areas.

It would not be a permitted use in Village District zones.

The hours of operation would be limited to 8 a.m. through midnight, seven days per week. Alcohol sales or consumption would be prohibited. The county fire marshal would establish an occupancy limit prior to submission of the operation's permit application.

The ordinance would set a maximum daily cash payout not to exceed $600. Winnings above that amount would have to be paid by check or credit.

The gaming operations would have to be located 300 feet or more from a residence or a residential district, church, day care, public or private school, public park, playground, and/or library, another electronic gaming operation or adult entertainment establishment.

The ordinance would require "reasonable fees sufficient to cover the costs of administration, inspection, publication of notice and similar matters may be charged to applicants for permits, variances, and other administrative relief as may be required by this ordinance."

The fees would be included in the county's budget or established by resolution by commissioners.