CEO Gaming founder Alex Jebailey spoke at a Daytona Beach, Florida, city commission meeting on Wednesday, where he urged local lawmakers to take action against panhandling following issues at his CEO event in June 2018.
City commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a new ordinance that restricts panhandling in certain areas, including within 20 feet of a commercially zoned property and on the boardwalk area where many CEO attendees spent time in June. Panhandlers will also be restricted from soliciting after dark and while they are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Several high-profile CEO participants, including multitime fighting game world champion Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, spoke out in July about issues, including ethnic slurs, that some attendees faced in the area during the weekend of the event.
"I do definitely think the area should be addressed next year," SonicFox wrote on Twitter. "The area as a black man made me highly uncomfortable with the amount of openly racist s--- there. The venue is 10/10 but something should be done here."
Jebailey, who moved CEO from his home of Orlando, Florida, to Daytona Beach for the first time in 2018, was one of several small-business owners who spoke at the meeting. Each person who spoke was given roughly 2½ minutes to talk. In the months following his event, Jebailey met with both local police and staff of the Ocean Center, where CEO took place in 2018 and is contracted to do so again from June 28 to 30 this summer.
"I really think this is going to be a better year," Jebailey told ESPN on Thursday. "I can't guarantee anything -- every city has their bad apples, right? Never go out alone; always have people to go with. The city of Daytona is specifically keeping their eyes on CEO to make sure we have the best possible event, and there's going to be eyes all around looking out for our best interest."
Following the conclusion of the event in June, Jebailey and CEO staff wrote a letter to the city explaining how these issues could prevent attendees from participating again, especially if they occurred once more in 2019.
In 2018, players from more than 40 countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and others, attended the event, according to registration website Smash.gg. And for the first time ever, CEO partnered with New Japan Pro Wrestling to host a wrestling show at the Ocean Center on the Friday of the event. That show attracted many spectators who were not participating in the esports portion of the event.
The panhandling ordinance had already been discussed prior to CEO 2018 and is based on a similar one that was spearheaded by attorney Michael Kahn in St. Augustine, Florida, a town that is about one-seventh the size of Daytona Beach and located an hour north of the city. Panhandlers who violate the new ordinance are subject to up to a $200 fine.
"It's something the city has been working on," Jebailey said, "but just the timing of CEO and all of those major complaints was a real big wake-up call for them to get other events to consider the Ocean Center in Daytona."