Some arcades continue to operate in city

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 1, 2002

The question of the legality of video gaming machines continues to hamstring Dallas County law enforcement, irritate those citizens who think the machines morally wrong and annoy patrons who insist they’re just out to have a little fun.

Many people who have made the arcades a second home believe that the video machines are harmless.

Percy McCrimon, a Selma native and retired railroad worker, said for that for more that a year he has been playing the video game machines at Spinners on Lapsley Street. He said he sees nothing wrong with it, and if they close the arcades in Selma he will just go elsewhere.

But not everyone wants the gambling machines around. City authorities have received numerous calls from concerned citizens about the moral and legal aspects of the issue.

In accordance with the written opinion of State Attorney General Bill Pryor, Selma City legal officials have voiced the opinion that it is illegal for businesses to operate with these type of machines in them, District Attorney Ed Greene Jr. said.

In some instances when similar businesses were shut down and individuals arrested, however, some judges have upheld convictions and some haven’t.

Fourth Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins issued an injunction in Perry County making it illegal for Greene to direct law enforcement or advise them to uphold their take on the issue.

In August, a Jefferson County judge issued an order declaring arcades illegal until the state rules otherwise. And just last week, a Montgomery County judge issued an order preventing the city from closing arcades until the October hearing on the legality of the machines. And the minority opinion of the Alabama State Supreme Court has issued an advisory claiming these machines are unconstitutional.

On Sept. 19, Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies raided an arcade in Plantersville, adjacent to Dallas County High School, confiscating 36 of 57 video gaming machines. The business has not re-opened, under an agreement with the sheriff’s department. Other businesses of that kind voluntarily shut down. Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. said he intends to make sure they stay shut if they are within the county’s jurisdiction.

Arcades in Selma closed, too, assuming action would be taken if they remained open. But they soon re-opened for business.

But Greene insists the question is not is it harmless, but is it legal, and what awaits is yet to be known.