-- Defying Sarasota County zoning laws and facing $250
a day in fines, a South Venice gaming club has refused
to shut its doors.
Gaming Room, at 803 U.S. 41 Bypass, remains open despite
being denied a certificate of occupancy, which is required
for all businesses operating in the county.
was among four Southern Sarasota County clubs that last
month lost a lawsuit seeking to force the county to grant
them certificates of occupancy.
three other clubs -- Jackpot 777 in Nokomis, and Player's
Club and Player's Paradise in Englewood -- have closed.
The clubs were denied licenses because the county contends
that they violate Florida's gambling laws.
Gentry, lead code-enforcement officer for Sarasota County,
said a tax lien has been placed against Fatboys and the
county could foreclose on the establishment next year.
Fatboys owner R.J. Smith said he was unaware that his
club was being fined $250 a day. "Nobody
has sent us a letter," he said. "This is the
first I've heard of it."
the county code-enforcement officer, responded: "I'm
surprised he doesn't know about it. The fine runs until
the business comes into compliance, which it hasn't done."
was business as usual Tuesday morning at Fatboys, where
about a half-dozen customers played video poker and slot
county zoning officers have likened the clubs to "mini-casinos,"
Fatboys hardly resembles anything on the Vegas strip.
table covered with packs of potato chips and honey buns
is in the middle of the dimly lit club, dividing rows
of video slot machines. Instead of paying off in cash,
Fatboys offers Visa and Wal-Mart gift certificates up
everyone in the club Tuesday morning was over the age
is burning through their retirement savings here,"
said one customer. "I don't see what the problem
the owner, said he wished the county would just leave
not doing anything wrong," he said. "We're not
Venice City Manager Marty Black credited the county for
taking action against the clubs.
police force been very supportive of what the county is
doing," Black said. "There are serious concerns
about the activities at these establishments."