Sumter County Commission holds first meeting since suspension of two of its members

Gary Research
Oren Miller 1
Oren miller

The Sumter County commission held its first meeting since the suspension of two of its members last week.

The three-member commission was called Tuesday night at the Everglades Recreation Center by board chairman Craig Estep. The quorum consisted of Commissioners Doug Gilpin and Garry Breeden.

Commissioners Doug Gilpin Craig Estep and Garry Breeden right at the Tuesday meeting.
Commissioners Doug Gilpin, Craig Estep and Garry Breeden, from left at the head table, during Tuesday’s meeting.

Oren Miller and Gary Search were suspended from their duties as commissioners last week by Governor Ron DeSantis following their arrests in December for perjury.

Miller attended the meeting, seated in the audience.

County ready to crack down on adult gambling halls

Sumter County adult gambling halls are to receive operating permits and new gambling halls must comply with zoning restrictions under an ordinance approved Tuesday night.

Approved by a reduced three-member board of commissioners, the ordinance is an effort to crack down on arcades, which officials say are centers of criminal activity.

At least 16 arcade stores were operating in Sumter County last year. In an 18-month period ending in August, they generated more than 560 police calls while sheriff’s deputies made nearly 100 arrests and executed 36 warrants. Three arcades were broken into. Most of the criminal activity took place after midnight and there are many game rooms open 24 hours a day.

Operating under names like Fantasy Entertainment Center, DreamLiners Arcade, or Jack and Jill Adult Superstore, arcades circumvent state gambling laws by offering prizes to video game winners.

The ordinance sets operating standards for existing arcade businesses. Hours will be limited from 8 a.m. to midnight. Arcades must hire private security guards at night and use video security, silent alarms, and secure cash management systems. The sale of alcohol is prohibited.

New arcade businesses should be located in zoned industrial or commercial areas. They cannot be within 2,500 feet of schools, playgrounds, churches and daycares. The must be at least 1000 feet from areas zoned for current or future residential development.

County administrator Bradley Arnold said the county attorney and arcade lawyers worked on drafting the order so it is unlikely to be challenged.

“It’s not a ban for them,” he said. “Even with the setbacks, there are still properties available for them.”

Residents of Panasoffkee Lake, where about a half-dozen arcades are located, welcomed the passing of the ordinance, but said they wanted it to do more to quell existing arcades.

“It’s an absolute Wild West,” said Vincent Phelps. “They are extremely deleterious. “

Diane Roth of Laka Panasoffkee spoke at Tuesday's meeting
Diane Roth of Laka Panasoffkee spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

Diane Roth said she noticed a stronger presence of sheriff’s deputies near the arcades.

“I would like to see them closed at 10 am,” she said. “We have a lot of loitering. I don’t want that in my neighborhood.

Aurora J. William