CLEARWATER: Search Warrant Served at Local Arcade for Evidence of Illegal Gambling

According to an online St. Pete Times story, Clearwater Police Department (CWPD) detectives seized more than eighty (80) computerized gaming machines and a new car last week after executing a search warrant at what authorities called an illegal gambling operation on U.S. Highway 19 North in Clearwater.

The search and seizure happened around 5:00 p.m. Friday at the Rio Arcade, located at 19042 U.S. Highway 19 North. Clearwater detectives began investigating the business after receiving complaints of illegal gambling. A quick look at the Rio Arcade’s website (hyperlinked above) gives the impression that this was more of a casino than an arcade.

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Detectives believe the establishment was operating an illegal gambling business with approximately eighty-four (84) gambling computers. During execution of their search warrant on Friday, they seized the computers, $10,000 in cash, a 2011 Hyundai and other electronic equipment.

No arrests have been made, but the Clearwater Police Department has forwarded criminal charges against the owner and several managers to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to prosecute.

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About six (6) years ago, when I was serving as a Pinellas County Prosecutor, I successfully prosecuted a number of these “Gambling” / slot machine cases. In one case, that proceeded all the way through a lengthy Jury Trial, we were able to bring about fifty (50) slot machines into the courtroom and have our expert witness demonstrate how they (and the random number generator) work.

Florida law, as stated in Chapter 849.08 (below), prohibits anyone from playing or engaging in “any game of chance,” by any device, “for money or other thing of value.”

849.08 Gambling

Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

If you or a loved one has been arrested, or is being investigated, for a Gambling offense, the Clearwater-based Blake & Dorsten, P.A. is on your side. These cases involve rarely-used statutes and fairly old caselaw. Therefore, you’ll want a defense attorney who is experienced handling these odd cases.

To speak directly with criminal defense attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten, please contact the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. at 727.286.6141. You can also email Nicholas at: info@blakedorstenlaw.com

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