Florida Clothing Store Alleged ‘Front’ for Game Room, Operator Faces 16 Counts

Posted on: July 22, 2022, 12:13h. 

Last updated on: July 25, 2022, 04:42h.

A Florida man was arrested Wednesday on 16 gambling charges related to fish games. Detectives found a “game room” hidden behind his Citra, Fla. clothing store.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods, pictured above. The Florida sheriff’s office searched a business in which a game room was allegedly operating covertly. (Image: Getty Images/Gerardo Mora)

The operator, Ralph McNish, 46, was charged with violating Marion County’s ordinance prohibiting the management, possession, or use of simulated gambling devices for commercial purposes, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in an online post.

He was placed in the Marion County Jail on Wednesday. Bail was set at $8,000. He posted bond early today, according to online jail records.

The investigation was launched after the sheriff’s office was told an “internet café” was covertly operating at the Citra location.

Undercover Shop

On Wednesday, an undercover detective with the sheriff’s office knocked on the door and rang the doorbell of the business. McNish opened the door and told the detective the business was a clothing store.

After our detective told McNish he was interested in playing some tables, McNish allowed our detective inside and brought him into the back of the business,” the sheriff’s office revealed.

The detective paid $40 to play the games. He concluded they were “simulated gambling devices,” the sheriff’s office said. The undercover detective then left the business. Other officers arrived. McNish was questioned. He refused to answer or give officers a statement, authorities said. McNish was apprehended.

Authorities searched the business, and photos were taken. It was not immediately known if any gaming devices or cash were seized from the business. In total, there were 16 fish game stations inside the operation.

“Photographs … depict the so-called ‘clothing store’ that was literally used as a ‘front’ by this establishment as well as the ‘game room’ hidden in the back,” the sheriff’s office said.

Fish Games Explained

Fish games are often found in arcades. Typically, players attempt to shoot fish or other marine-type life as part of the game.

Fish hunting is increasingly popular in many arcades, according to news reports.

Typically, players are paid cash equivalents in credits based on the number of sea creatures they strike. Machines are relatively easy to operate via buttons and joysticks, the Modesto Bee, a California newspaper, has reported.

Questioning Need for Arrest

Though some posters on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page complimented officers on the arrest and search, many others questioned the entire police operation.

You should be more worried about the drugs and shootings in citra rather than a ‘fish games’ gambling spot. I mean, seriously though, there was a shootout down the road from Dollar General the other night. Go look into that. Some REAL crimes,” poster Ryan Ref told the sheriff’s office.

Similarly, Kelly L Graham said, “Quit harassing these type places. More important stuff going on im sure.”

“I don’t see how this is a problem!?,” Hailee Eubanks commented.

“If so shouldn’t it be … illegal to get scratch offs and lottery tickets? If you ask me y’all should be after different things then a fish table. Just cause it isn’t ‘regulated’ and the government isn’t getting any money if this is illegal shouldn’t all forms of gambling be!?”