Moultrie Observer

Government

March 20, 2012

Gaming cafes still on hold

MOULTRIE — The Moultrie City Council renewed its moratorium on sweepstakes cafes as the Georgia General Assembly considers a state law concerning gaming machines such as the cafes use.

A previous moratorium had expired, so on Tuesday the council voted to establish another 120-day moratorium. It prevents such businesses from getting a zoning permit, certificate of occupancy, tax certificate or alcohol beverage license.

The initial moratorium dates back to June 2011, following Moultrie Police Department raids of local businesses that featured gaming machines. Several people were charged with gambling offenses; as their cases progressed, the grand jury declined to indict some of them, but others eventually pleaded guilty.

The moratorium has been renewed repeatedly since then.

The Legislature is considering House Bill 164, which will clarify rules relating to gaming machines, according to the General Assembly’s website, www.legis.ga.gov. The bill was passed by the House March 16, and the Senate referred it to the Finance Committee that same day.

The bill, an adaptation of current law, defines two kinds of legal money-operated gaming machines. Class A machines do not let the player accrue points from one play to the next, while Class B machines do. Class A’s can currently reward players only with additional plays or extra time, but under the proposal could “pay out” noncash prizes. Class B’s already can reward successful players with noncash prizes. Noncash prizes could include gift certificates, gift cards or tokens that could be exchanged for items but not for money.

The bill also would prevent cities from establishing a prohibition on such machines if they are operated in accordance with state law.

The council also heard Tuesday from the Rev. Rufus Jolly, who discussed two issues.

First, he followed up on a response he got from the city about the intersection of Sixth Avenue Northwest and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

“Something’s going to happen,” Jolly said. “Coming from that graveyard I almost got hit again Saturday.”

The city had investigated his concern and found only one accident at that intersection in five years, City Manager Mike Scott said. Traffic count and speeds didn’t justify putting in a four-way stop either, he said.

The problem, Jolly said, is a “blind spot” caused by an embankment on the property adjacent to the intersection.

While Scott acknowledged that it’s harder to see at that intersection, he refused to accept the term “blind spot.” He also said the city can’t afford to buy the property and grade down the embankment.

However, City Councilwoman Lisa Hill told Jolly the city is already working with the landowner to remove a tree that limits visibility there.

On an unrelated issue, Jolly encouraged the city to bring intercity bus service to Moultrie. He noted that Thomasville’s bus station reopened just last week.

After the meeting, Scott said bus service is a private business, but the Intermodal Transporation Facility was built for such a purpose and might be part of a solution to Jolly’s concern. The facility should be complete next month, Scott said.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

• Expressed appreciation to volunteers from the University of Tennessee who have been working in Moultrie.

• Approved an alcoholic beverage license to sell beer, wine and spirituous liquors for off-premises consumption at Mike’s Plaza Package Store, 205 Fifth St. S.E.

•  Approved a temporary alcoholic license to sell/dispense beer and wine at the Dogwood Music Festival 2012, to be held Saturday, April 21, at Spence Field. The applicant was promoter Stewart D. Campbell.

• Approved the hiring of Bob Roberson and Associates as an administrative consultant for the city’s Community Development Block Grant projects.

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