The Miami Police Department's crackdown on illegal gambling machines continued today with the arrest of Luis Boris Estrada. Cops busted the 42-year-old Cuban for operating six "maquinitas" at the Rapido Discount he manages at 2742 SW Eighth Street, finding $1,000 in one of the machines. Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito has led the crusade to eradicate maquinitas across the city, and as a result put him at odds with Mayor Tomas Regalado.
The battle between the chief and hizzoner began last fall when police raided a dozen Miami locations and seized nearly 400 video machines in less than two weeks after the Miami City Commission passed an ordinance to allow the maquinitas by taxing operators $500 for each machine they bring into the city. Regalado claimed the measure would generate $750,000 in cash for Miami's coffers.
Exposito maintains the ordinance cannot supersede state law, which prohibits maquinitas, which are very similar to the slot machines found at parimutuel gaming sites like Magic City Casino. The chief warned his boss that the machines are tied to organized crime and are designed to exploit the poorest segments of the community. Some owners and operators have fought back by filing suits against Exposito and the police department to get their machines back.
The controversy was also a hot button issue in the recent race for county mayor. Winner Carlos Gimenez hammered his opponent ex-Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina for championing a similar ordinance when he was still in charge of Miami-Dade's second largest city. Exposito has claimed Hialeah created a safe haven for the illegal gambling industry, whose members gave generously to Robaina's failed bid for county mayor.
In Estrada's case, an officer entered Rapido and heard the sound of the machines whirring in a back room. The cop inserted a dollar into one of the five machines he found. "No skills were used or necessary to win credits or control the outcome of the game, clearly making the operation of the machines a game of chance," the officer wrote in Estrada's arrest affidavit.
The campaign led by Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito has placed him at odds with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. It has also pitted his department against the City of Hialeah, which Exposito claims has created a safe haven for the illegal gambling industry. But Tuesday morning in Miami, the emphasis was on finding and rounding up the machines.