GREENSBORO, N.C. – Investigators are starting to crack down on businesses that operate “fish games,” large scale table-mounted video games that pay cash rewards to players, after a pattern of violent crimes associate with the businesses.
Greensboro Police are hand-delivering letters to 37 businesses known to have such machines, then giving them 30 days to stop the operation of the machines. The games are considered illegal. Per North Carolina law, “any machine which, for the payment of money is operated in such a way that the operator receives a cash payout of any kinds, irrespective of whether the game requires skill or dexterity,” is prohibited.
“It's sort of like sweepstakes. It’s a game where you put your money in, whatever you want to put in,” said Isaah Florence, who works as a cashier for one of these businesses. He says if you haven't ever played - don't start because it's highly addictive.
"There are different types of tables you get to play on …and then you shoot at the fish, whether it's the big fish or little fish, and then if they blow up, however much the value was you get that as ammo and you keep shooting or you can cash out,” he said.
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He’s been working at one of the businesses for about a month now, and doesn't agree that it's breaking the law.
“It’s a fun and innocent game. It just involves money in it – and law enforcement doesn't like anything that involves cash money,” he said.
“Greensboro’s seen a pattern of violent crime that's been associated with these businesses,” explained Guilford County Sheriff’s Attorney Rick Stevens.
Even though it’s GPD’s crackdown, High Point Police and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office will be on the lookout for anyone moving a fish game business outside of Greensboro city limits.
“If any vender out there thinks they're going to be closed down by GPD and move their game out into Guilford County, the answer is – that's the wrong answer, because we will shut you down immediately, and we won't give you 30 days written notice to comply,” said Sheriff’s Attorney Jim Secor.
They say operating these machines is illegal -- no matter how much skill is involved, and it's more about making money than for entertainment.
“The game, if you will, of the venders and the manufacturers of this software is to constantly change the software, tweak it slightly in an effort to beat the statute,” said Secor.
“Walking in with a certain amount of money and leaving with many times more than that is going to be the hallmark of what constitutes an illegal gaming operation in North Carolina versus one that's lawful,” said Stevens.
GPD is giving owners 30 days to voluntarily comply because they may not be aware the games are illegal. Police Chief Wayne Scott said in a statement - most owners aren't the criminal type, and went through the right channels for licensing.