Florida seniors warned to be cautious of shady slot machines

State officials are seeing more illegal gambling operations across Florida. It's why the AARP and the Florida Gaming Control Commission are teaming up to issue warnings saying these operators are specifically targeting vulnerable aging populations. 

Since the pandemic, the Florida Gaming Control Commission says there has been an explosion of illegal gambling lounges opening up with unregulated slot machines. Officials say they advertise big rewards at first, then scale back and sometimes don't pay out winnings. Since it's illegal, there's no recourse for people who participate.

At first glance, storefronts like these may not stand out, but the state has shut down all those operating as illegal gambling houses. 

File: Florida gaming facility.

File: Florida gaming facility. 

"When they open and operate, some of them register as amusement arcades through the Department of Revenue, and that means they're acting like a Dave and Buster's or a Chuck E. Cheese, but in reality, they're offering illegal gambling devices such as slot machines," Florida Gaming Control Commission Director of External Affairs Eric Carr said.

RELATED: Gaming officials crack down on illegal gambling across Florida

If the game has any element of chance built into it, under Florida statute, it's considered an illegal gambling device. Earlier this month, state officials shut down four illegal gambling operations, including two in the Bay Area, with unregulated slot machines.

File: Slot machine

File: Slot machine

"When they open up in a neighborhood, they dial up the winnings to entice the neighborhood to come in and play. Once they get a packed house, they can literally dial down the winnings to almost zero. Then at that point, they're just stealing and using predatory practices and taking money from Florida's most vulnerable, especially the senior population," Carr said.

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In some cases, Carr says the people playing may not realize the games are illegal. It's why AARP and the Florida Gaming Control Commission are warning seniors about the risks, so they don't fall victim.

"They may be thinking that they're providing these folks with a sense of community and something to do, but the reality is you're hurting our community. These are folks who could be better connected to services that could help them continue to grow and thrive as they age," AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

File: Florida gaming facility.

File: Florida gaming facility. 

Carr says the number of complaints from the public submitted through the website has skyrocketed and wants people to know it's the best way to help the state in shutting illegal gambling operations.

"You can remain completely anonymous. We just need to know the location of the business and what you witnessed in there in our law enforcement team follows up on every tip," Carr said.

Slot machines are allowed in Florida in the following locations:

  • Hard Rock Tampa
  • Seminole Casino Brighton
  • Seminole Casino Immokalee
  • Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
  • Seminole Classic Casino Hollywood
  • Hard Rock Hollywood
  • Miccosukee Casino & Resort, Miami
  • Harrah’s Pompano Beach
  • The Casino at Dania Beach
  • The Big Easy Casino, Hallandale Beach
  • Gulfstream Park Racing, Hallandale Beach
  • Calder Casino, Miami Gardens
  • Hialeah Park Casino
  • Casino Miami
  • Magic City Casino, Miami

If you suspect illegal gambling activity, you're asked to report it to the Florida Gaming Control Commission by clicking here