ROWLAND — After months of debate, the Rowland Board of Commissioners unanimously approved charging businesses to operate video gaming machines.
The amendment to an existing ordinance prohibits businesses from operating gaming machines without paying an annual $600 registration fee for each machine as well as a $50 application fee. Business will have to provide a serial number for each machine.
“I say we have this go into effect immediately,” Commissioner Jean Love said.
The deadline to register machines will be July 1 for new businesses. The town will send information to existing businesses informing them that they have 60 days to register the machines. Failure to pay the registration fee by the deadline will result in a penalty equal to 100 percent of the fee plus the fee, bringing the total to $1,200 per machine.
Commissioner Marvin Shooter suggested the town also send a copy of the zoning map so businesses will know the machines are only allowed in a commercial district.
Town Clerk David Townsend said there are administrative and law enforcement costs associated with having the games in town, and the fees will help recapture some of that expense.
The Robeson County Board of Commissioners was considering putting a $300 fee on the machines, but tabled any decision on Monday because of legal concerns. For years local governments have struggled to regulate the machines, which some see as a form of gambling. The machines are easily manipulated to stay inside the letter of the law.
In other money matters, the commissioners approved a $1.429 million budget that keeps the tax rate at 79 cents per $100 of property value, and maintains current fees for water, sewer and garbage collection. There are no salary increases, new positions, layoffs or major capital projects.
“It is again light, but a balanced budget,” Townsend said.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Awarded a contract to S. Preston and Douglas and Associates to handle the town’s annual audit.
— Adopted a resolution thanking the Rowland Rural Fire Department for its work that resulted in improving the town’s fire rating, which should save property owners money on their insurance.