Possible gambling video fuels fight between mayor and police chief

As the saga of Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito's war with Mayor Tomás Regalado rages on, a new development could fuel the battle between the two estranged friends over illegal gambling in the city's bodegas and cafeterias. New Times has obtained video footage of what looks like a man winning a stack of cash after playing a coin-operated machine game.

The 45-second clip, recorded with an iPhone camera owned by a source who wishes to remain anonymous, shows a man sitting on a stool in front of a machine located inside El Capitan Cafeteria at 3061 South River Dr. The man — who sports a short haircut and wears a white, long-sleeved shirt and dark jeans — opens the machine's cash box and hands several bills of what look like U.S. currency to a heavyset man with eyeglasses standing next to him.

On January 13, late in the afternoon, New Times played the footage for El Capitan's owner, a man who identified himself as German. He declined to provide his last name. German's cafeteria was empty except for a buxom middle-aged woman behind the lunch counter. He explained that his seven machines, which include electronic poker, black jack, and horse races, are for entertainment purposes only. "My customers play to pass the time," German insisted. "It's all for fun."

He acknowledged being the individual in the clip who paid the bespectacled player, but vehemently denied the cash was winnings. "The machine had a malfunction," German explains, "so I was just giving the customer a refund."

Machines like the ones German operates have been the lynchpin of Exposito's accusations against Regalado. The embattled police chief claims the mayor meddled in criminal investigations and raids involving illegal gambling at city cafeterias and bodegas. In October, Regalado championed an ordinance that would fine merchants $500 and allow them to keep the machines, instead of arrest them on state misdemeanor charges of illegal gambling.

German complained that the police are making it hard for small businessmen like him to earn a living. "We are not breaking the law," German says. "We are just providing entertainment for people who choose to eat a meal here."

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.

Latest Stories