Usually when city councils bring things up for a First Reading, it’s nothing more than a rubber stamp process.
Whatever needs to pass on initial review does so unanimously pending further review, possible workshops and eventually not approved until a second reading a month or two down the road.
But a rarity occurred at Monday night’s Medley council meeting when the town council shot down an item before it ever got off the ground.
The item agenda was a public hearing to consider on first reading an ordinance that would permit the operation of automatic amusement machines in many local business establishments around town.
There will be no second reading as the council, led by the charge of Vice Mayor Griselia Digiacomo, ultimately voted unanimously to shoot it down, but not before close to 30 minutes of discussion had taken place.
“My wife was in a Dollar Store over in Hialeah a few months ago when she walked in and saw somebody using that ‘one arm bandit’ and they were putting money into it,” said Councilman Jack Morrow. “I don’t care what they tell you, those are gambling machines for gambling purposes.”
“I don’t see any benefit to the town here, and if I’m not mistaken our police department went around confiscating these machines just a few years back,” said Digiacomo. “This is absolutely not a good idea.”
With support from many local restaurants and eateries, the company of Arcade Amusement Centers had put in an application to set up “games of chance” at various establishments around town.
While the machines do not pay out in actual cash as your traditional slot machines, they have been known to use a simple backdoor method that allows playing customers, should they win more than they pay in, to collect from whichever business owner operates that particular machine.
Even Mayor Roberto Martell was on board initially with the idea of at least exploring the possibility and looking into how it might benefit many local businesses in the area.
“There are a lot of businesses and restaurants out there that are hurting right now and need the extra revenue to pay their bills,” said Martell. “It could be a real benefit to them.”
Town Attorney Michael Pizzi then explained that this was only a first reading and that plenty of work, including a possible special workshop, could be called in the interim to look into all the rules and regulations that would need to be followed and enforced.
Morrow actually made a motion to pass it on first reading and Councilperson Susana Guasch issued a second.
“I think perhaps we should at least explore it and give the businesses the benefit of the doubt,” said Guasch. “We’re not making any kind of a commitment tonight.
But, with the subject still open for discussion, Digiacomo continued to drive her point home.
“I don’t see any point on even going any further on this,” she said. “While this might be good for a few businesses, it won’t benefit most. To me this will be really bad for the town and it would not make us look very good.”