Are coin-operated dart and pool games in the same class as video games when it comes to amusement devices?
Bountiful officials are grappling with that question as they once again try to determine whether there is a need to alter the city ordinance governing amusement devices at business locations.The present ordinance limits commercial operations to four such devices. Last month, the council decided not to relax that limit, voting against a request by a businessman who wants to open a video arcade in the Colonial Square shopping center on 26th South. In that case, the person requesting the change had bought a business that previously had 28 machines under the assumption he could also operate that many games.
The council decided otherwise, saying the previous business had not operated for several months and ruling that the new operation was not a continuation of the old business under new management.
The latest concern involves a change of ownership for a local tavern that had seven devices, three more than allowed by the ordinance. However, as the council discussed the request, it turned out that video games are not involved. The tavern has two dart game machines, four pool tables and a snooker table, all coin operated.
Council members said they were not aware that such games came under the ordinance, and most indicated they believe the ordinance referred only to the electronic video games. They directed the city attorney to review the ordinance and determine if the ordinance should be revised to differentiate between the various kinds of games or whether all games should come under the same ruling.
The four-game limit was imposed in 1981 when video games were at the height of their popularity and there had been some problems caused by teenagers congregating at various locations. In a few isolated incidents, minor vandalism occurred.
Council members seemed to favor minor revisions in their last consideration of the ordinance but were not willing to open it up to allow a full-scale video arcade. In the case of the tavern, officials believe some of the problems associated with an arcade are not present because of the age restrictions created by the presence of alcohol.
Assistant City Attorney Russell Mahan said the council could allow the seven devices under the "grandfather" concept that applies to many zoning ordinances. He said he would recommend against such a concept because he believes the council has an obligation to phase out exceptions where feasible, and he believes such a move would be appropriate in this situation.