Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Public safety

Legal tussle continues over coin pusher machines in convenience stores

LARGO — In June, the man behind the "Jukebox Coin Pusher" machines that Largo police declared illegal said he was ready for a fight.

In July, Andy Kline backed up his words and sued a state agency that also called his invention an illegal slot machine. In the meantime, though, at least one Largo convenience store owner has decided he wants no part of this fight.

Largo police Chief John Carroll updated his peers on the Pinellas Police Standards Council about the Jukebox Coin Pusher saga at the council's meeting last Wednesday.

The machines started appearing at convenience stores in Largo earlier this year. Game Gallery Amusements and Rentals, Kline's Tampa company, leases them across the region. Kline said in June he has leased about 100 across the area.

The machines are filled with quarters, with some dollar bills (occasionally a $20) buried in their midst. Customers pay 25 cents to play a song, and once you drop a quarter in, there's a chance it pushes money out of the machine. Kline says it's a game of skill, and that while there are illegal coin pusher machines out there, he designed his to comply with Florida law.

Carroll disagrees, though. And so does the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This summer, a department agent told a St. Petersburg convenience store owner the Jukebox Coin Pusher was illegal.

In July, Kline sued the department in Pinellas County court. "It's our position that law enforcement agencies are reading something into the statute that's not there," said Joshua Eggnatz, Kline's attorney.

While Eggnatz and Kline wage their court battle, the owner of Mac's Mini Mart in Largo has decided the money he makes off the machine is not worth the trouble. Abdeslam Rahmouni wrote a letter to Largo Chief Carroll on Sept. 27 telling Carroll his store would no longer lease the machine.

Rahmouni's letter arrived several days after Carroll got a letter from Eggnatz, threatening legal action if Largo police continued to tell stores that the coin pusher is illegal. Rahmouni told Carroll that Eggnatz didn't speak on his behalf. "My business is in the city of Largo and I am following the rules and regulations of the city," Rahmouni wrote. "I gave the owner (Kline) until 10/15/2012 to take his machine out of my business or I will throw it in the Dumpster."

Eggnatz said Tuesday he understands why Rahmouni would feel that way, and he actually recommends other Largo stores get rid of the coin pusher until state court rules on their legality in his case.

At last Wednesday's meeting, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe indicated reluctance to prosecute cases against stores that keep the coin pushers. He likened the machines to Internet "sweepstakes cafes," establishments that some law enforcement agencies have declared illegal gambling halls. Both fall into legal gray areas, McCabe said, that the Florida Legislature needs to clear up. "These are issues that are very difficult to deal with on a local level, because the few experts in that field are very expensive," McCabe said. "The state needs to take charge of this."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

Comments
SB I-75 closed at I-275 apex following crash near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard

SB I-75 closed at I-275 apex following crash near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard

A crash with injuries early Tuesday morning has closed southbound Interstate 75 at the I-275 apex into Hillsborough County.The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a three-vehicle crash that involved a semi-truck in the southbound lanes of I-75 ne...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Citrus County crash kills two, including Port Richey motorcyclist

Citrus County crash kills two, including Port Richey motorcyclist

A Port Richey motorcyclist and pedestrian from Citrus County were killed Monday morning in a crash on U.S. 19 in Homosassa.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 50-year-old Donald Glenn Moore was riding northbound on U.S. 19, near South Suffolk Te...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Michael Drejka released on bail in Clearwater parking space incident

Michael Drejka released on bail in Clearwater parking space incident

LARGO — Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton in a case that set off a national debate about self-defense in July, was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Monday afternoon.Always Available Bail Bonds posted $100,000 bai...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

LAND O’LAKES — Samantha Keithley sent a series of disturbing text messages late Sunday, complaining about her husband to a longtime friend.“Kirk has lost his mind Kristin,” she wrote in one text to friend Kristin Kellin. &...
Updated: 12 hours ago
John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

CLEARWATER — The day John Jonchuck was supposed to go on trial in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, attorneys met instead to discuss a new trial date.The trial was delayed after Jonchuck’s attorneys raised concerns about one of the prosecutors’ ...
Published: 09/24/18
Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

St. Petersburg firefighters responded to a blaze early Monday that began in the center of the gymnasium at Lakewood High School.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, firefighters arrived on the south side of the school at 1400 54th Ave. S about 5:...
Published: 09/24/18
Pinellas sheriff’s SUV struck in chain-reaction crash on Trinity Boulevard

Pinellas sheriff’s SUV struck in chain-reaction crash on Trinity Boulevard

TARPON SPRINGS — A Pinellas sheriff’s deputy was caught up in a chain-reaction crash that took place early Monday at the intersection of Trinity Boulevard and East Lake Road. The crash took place at about 6:28 a.m., according to the Pinellas County S...
Published: 09/24/18
Dallas police say Officer Amber Guyger, accused of fatally shooting neighbor in his own apartment, has been fired

Dallas police say Officer Amber Guyger, accused of fatally shooting neighbor in his own apartment, has been fired

DALLAS — A white police officer accused of fatally shooting her black neighbor inside his own apartment was fired Monday for "adverse conduct," the Dallas Police Department said in a statement.Police Chief U. Renee Hall dismissed Officer Amber Guyger...
Published: 09/24/18
Pasco deputies identify body of man found in wooded Wesley Chapel campsite

Pasco deputies identify body of man found in wooded Wesley Chapel campsite

WESLEY CHAPEL — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has identified a body discovered Saturday in a wooded area as a 60-year-old Hillsborough County man.Two people flagged down a deputy Saturday to report a decomposing body in the woods north of Beardsl...
Published: 09/24/18
Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

More than two months have passed since Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a convenience store.While developments in the headline-grabbing case have slowed to a trickle as it crawls through the court system, the Tampa Bay Tim...
Published: 09/24/18