County to rewrite rules for gaming centers

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Wilson County commissioners have put a temporary hold on issuing permits for gaming centers as they tweak an ordinance to better define and regulate the businesses.

Commissioners took action this week after the county’s planning division requested a moratorium on permits in an effort to give staff adequate time for research and drafting proposed amendments to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance related to the area as well as seeking public input on the matter.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5 at the county’s Miller Road building.

Planning officials say it’s necessary to change the definitions because technology is constantly changing in the gaming industry and the games are increasing in popularity, which requires regulations to change to maintain the ordinance’s intent.

Officials say they are trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to these rapid changes.

The current UDO has two categories — internet/cyber cafes and amusement arcades.

Planning officials say they’ve had new applications and inquiries in recent months that don’t fall into either category.

Internet/cyber cafe definitions in the UDO were implemented in 2010, while the amusement arcade definitions were put into place in the late 1990s.

The amendment would have an additional defining category as “game centers.”

The proposed change defines “game center,” as a business enterprise “where persons utilize electronic machines or devices, including but not limited to computers and gaming terminals or other amusement devices, where cash, merchandise or others items of value are redeemed or otherwise distributed, whether or not the value of such distribution is determined by electronic games played.”

The temporary moratorium will be imposed for internet or cyber cafes or similar electronic or mechanical gaming centers for up to four months to allow the changes to the UDO, according to county officials.

But it could be lifted as early as next month, officials said.

Planning officials say they wanted to add the amendments to the UDO to put sweepstakes halls and similar gaming centers in the correct classification where those gaming centers would be bound by certain ordinances based on that particular use.

Gaming centers would include any type of video machine that has gaming ability.