Internet Cafes: What's Next?

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Tallahassee, FL -- March 16, 2012 --

In Hillsborough County, internet cafes are illegal, but in Tampa a businessman is opening new ones.

“We made sure to contact the proper authorities, before, during and after,” said Richard Ratcliff.

And those authorities, the Tampa City Government, said go ahead, because they lack the power to ban the new gaming businesses.

The situation is similar here in Tallahassee, where there is no city ordinance against internet cafes, but the county won’t allow any new ones to open.

How they are regulated varies from town to town and county to county. The Florida House voted for consistency, outlawing them statewide.

But the Senate never took up the legislation. They had their own bill with statewide regulations, but it failed too. Representative Scott Plakon sponsored the bill to ban. He plans to bring it back next year and is asking lawmakers to do their homework.

“I’d challenge some members to walk into them,” said Plakon.

And with no action from lawmakers, there will be plenty of new internet cafes to visit.

“We had a thousand of them this year up from 500 the year before. I’d say probably by next year we will have 15 hundred,” said Plakon.

Those new cafes will have to locate in cities and counties without bans, which means, if the industry continues to grow, areas where they’re still legal will see a huge surge. Only two counties have completely outlawed the games, Hillsborough and Seminole. Both of those bans are being challenged in court. Also the state has the authority to regulate internet cafes awarding prizes exceeding five thousand dollars. Ten businesses in the state fall under the state regulation.

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