Arcade raided after claims of illegal gambling, racketeering
An arcade in St. Lucie County is closed for good, and its owner is potentially facing charges after deputies raided the business Thursday.
Deputies raided Rio Arcade located on U.S. 1 at about 10 a.m., seizing 140 illegal gambling machines and arresting 30-40 people who were inside playing games at the time.
Florida law explicitly forbids gambling machines outside of a few approved venues, none of which are on the Treasure Coast.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said deputies started investigating the business in January for running illegal gambling machines. The agency added deputies and warned the owner multiple times to either close or modify their business.
Instead, deputies said Rio Arcade bought more gambling machines, blatantly advertised it out front and had payouts written on the wall.
"The money that these establishments make, all cash, is just too good to be true, and they don't want to stop — even though it's illegal," Mascara said.
Mascara said an establishment like Rio Arcade makes an estimated $30,000 to $60,000 in un-taxed dollars per day from people who can't afford to lose it.
"This place tends to prey on the elderly," Mascara said. "They bring their Social Security check here, they lose it all. We get numerous calls every day from family members that say, 'My father went to an arcade and lost his Social Security."
During the raid, WPTV saw deputies going in and out of the building with boxes, questioning and searching those inside.
"I feel like I'm watching [the television show] COPS right now," Nestor Rodriguez, who works right next door, said.
Rodriguez said he felt the business shutting down was a good thing.
"I believe it is a good thing," Rodriguez said. "You'll have less robbery, less crime."
Others, however, definitely weren't happy.
"They're taking everything away from us. I love this place," one woman, who asked not to be named, said. "I have nowhere to go now. I guess I'll sit at home, eat, watch TV and get fat. Huh, ain't that something."
Crowds started to form on the other side of the crime scene tape, as several people watched deputies load gambling machines onto a truck.
Some of the people watching the raid told WPTV that they were on their way in and could have been one of the dozens now forced to appear in court.
"Yeah, I'm lucky, I'm lucky," the unnamed woman said. "I just hope I don't get in trouble!"
Mascara said the owner and manager of Rio Arcade will likely be charged with illegal gambling, racketeering and possibly tax evasion.
Those playing the games at the time of the raid will likely only be charged with illegal gambling.
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