Code Enforcement Director Orlando Diaz, only at his post for three months, said no violations have been issued since he’s been there. He said he did not have time this week to check if any had been issued since the ordinance passed.
Regalado said as far as he knows, none have been handed out since the ordinance took effect in October 2010.
Asked why code officers haven’t ticketed violators, Regalado said: “It’s because we don’t know where the machines are. Usually they have them in the back rooms, where we don’t go, unless it’s the police.”
Police Chief Manuel Orosa said the city has confiscated 156 machines, most during Exposito’s tenure and some since Orosa took over. Of those, 51 have been destroyed after being labeled “contraband’’ by the courts.
The rest remain the subject of litigation. Orosa said before confiscating a machine, his officers must play it and win a prize three times. Both the Miami and Hialeah ordinances prohibit awarding cash prizes valued at more than 75 cents.
Nobody was more high profile in trying to eliminate the machines than former Chief Exposito, whose fight with the mayor over the machines eventually cost him his job in the summer of 2011.
Exposito, now retired and writing his autobiography, led several raids on establishments with the machines, confiscating them and arresting operators. He said the industry was linked to organized crime, and accused the mayor of being in bed with the industry.
Exposito said those highly-publicized arrests — as well as a handful made after he left — have scared maquinita owners from getting the new license.
“When you put in paperwork for a permit, you have to put in a location. You’re telling the police department, ‘Here’s where we have a machine. Come and get it,’ ” he said.
José W. Lorenzo, who owns El Bocadito cafeteria at 330 NW 27th Ave., was surprised to learn the owners of the single maquinita in his restaurant never obtained a permit. The machine belongs to Odayls and Jesús Abreu, major players in the local industry. The Abreus did not respond to a phone message.
Lorenzo does not favor the permitting requirement, saying too much regulation hurts small businesses.
“The machines are a way to draw in clients,” he said. “A senior citizen might come in and spend $20 and a few hours playing on a machine and drinking some cafecito.”
The Abreus, Jesus Navarro and Orlando Cordoves own a major share of the thousands of machines throughout Miami-Dade , records show. City administrators have acknowledged Cordoves helped the mayor write the city ordinance. None of the three groups returned phone calls this week.
In 2011, after Exposito led raids that ended in the confiscation of dozens of his machines, Cordoves sued Exposito and his top aide, Maj. Alfredo Alvarez, for defamation. That suit was dismissed.
The city still faces a lawsuit by several video slot machine owners who are seeking the return of more than 100 machines seized during an October 2010 raid.
Of the 20-plus people arrested in the raids, charged with possession of illegal gambling devices, the majority entered a pre-trial intervention program that saw their charges dropped in exchange for paying fines, doing community service and taking classes.