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City Economic Director Beverly Hawthorne discusses a Planning Commission recommendation to allow gaming machines and gaming machine operations as a use by right with no restrictions in Emporia.

Emporia Director of Economic Development Beverly Hawthorne said there are more than a dozen businesses that have added gaming machines to their retail shops, and they are in violation of their zoning applications. She said citizen complaints regarding these practices include loitering in front and back of the buildings, proper reporting and taxing of personal property, and gross income. Another complaint was increased police calls and a lack of cooperation from business owners.

The Planning Commission recently passed a recommendation to allow gaming machines and gaming machine operations as a use by right with no restrictions in all districts of the City of Emporia. That request never came to a vote Tuesday.

On Aug. 15, 2017, the Emporia City Council passed a 180-day moratorium on the issuance of permits and business licenses for electronic gaming machines. The moratorium has been extended every six months. On Tuesday, council member Yolanda Hines motioned to vote on the planning commission recommendation. No member of the council seconded the motion, leaving the moratorium in effect. Councilman James Saunders said the state is likely to take up the gaming issue in January, and the city’s governing body should wait.

“The governor has even talked about it going to the General Assembly this year because he’s getting pressure from the Lottery, which is probably coming from the Education Association as well,” Saunders said. “I think you will see some changes at the legislature.”

Saunders said the City Council would know how to proceed once the General Assembly takes action.

Councilman Woody Harris said it would be a mistake to change the city policy before the state takes up the issue. He said he was not necessarily opposed to addressing up the problem, but to do it now would be premature.

“I’d like to see Richmond set up a structure where there is fair sharing by the state and locality, as well as the operators and customers playing, so there is a more level playing field,” Harris said.