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Richfield schedules hearing on adult arcades

By Shannon Beamon
Staff Writer
A recent inquiry about adult arcades pointed out a hole in Richfield’s ordinances. Now the town council is seeking input from the public on how to address it.
The issue originally came up in January when local business owners Chuck Nance and John Goodman told the town council they had considered opening an adult arcade in Richfield.
Adult arcades — or adult gaming establishments — are businesses that offer cash-prize games to patrons 18 years old and up. Similar in concept to illegal internet sweepstakes cafes, they maintain their legality by offering prizes for skill-based games rather than chance-based games.
Such arcades are now surging in popularity across the state. In fact, a similar business opened next to the Food Lion on U.S. Highway 52 in Albemarle several months ago.
Due to the city’s bylaws, owners had to get a conditional use permit before they could do so. The permit required business owners to follow certain guidelines and operate on a probationary basis for six months.
However, there is nothing in Richfield’s ordinances to prevent such a business from opening up as it chose.
While there are some state-mandated restrictions, there is nothing in the town’s bylaws about such businesses.
Out of respect for public safety, Nance and Goodman said they had come in to suggest the council add regulations.
“I appreciate you bringing this to our attention,” Mayor Terry Deese said at that time.
In order to address that hole, the council will host a public hearing about it. Any resident with ideas or input on how to regulate such businesses is asked to give official comments at 7 p.m. March 26.
As for those rules, they could range from zoning restrictions, to limited operating hours, to minimum distance requirements from churches and schools.
For instance, Albemarle modified its adult gaming ordinances after the arcade on U.S. 52 opened.
On top of state ordinances, they now require all such establishments be at least 500 feet from any school, day care or other gaming establishment and 250 feet from any place of worship.
In addition, no more than 20 machines can operate at one location, all machines must be clearly visible from the front side of the establishment and police must have unimpeded access to the building during operational hours.
But they could also be different from that, too.
Nance and Goodman suggested that rather than unimpeded access, businesses have a locked door with buzzer entrance to prevent robbers from easily entering. Rather than having machines visible, they suggested a set up that would prevent children from peeking in.
“They don’t know what conditions yet,” Capp said of council member.
In addition, since the town doesn’t have its own police department, they also need to think through law enforcement, too, Capps noted.
“This will be the public hearing for all of that,” Capps said.

Contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24, or shannon@stanlynewspress.com.