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[UPDATE] Is it Legal? Online Gambling and Local Lottery Cafes

By: Danielle Sommerfeld, Eyewitness News Email
By: Danielle Sommerfeld, Eyewitness News Email

[UPDATE] 2-22 9:25am --

Internet cafes issues and "simulated gambling devices" have been put on the tonight's (2/22) agenda for the Leon County Board of Commissioners.

The Leon County Commissioner meeting agenda has this to say about Internet cafes:

A nationwide surge of Internet Cafes or gaming parlors have caused state and local governments to be on the offensive in trying to ascertain whether or not these “cafes” or “gaming parlors” can be construed as gambling.

Thus, the Board of County Commission has received a number of concerns or complaints to individual Commissioners over the past couple of months regarding the proliferation of the so-called "Internet Cafés" in Leon County and in the City of Tallahassee. As you are aware, the County Attorney's Office has been working closely with the State Attorney's Office and the Leon County Sheriff's Office with regard to our review of the activities at these properties for compliance with all of the applicable state statutes and local ordinances, including especially relative to potential illegal gambling activities.

While these investigations are ongoing, and in light of the position being taken by the Internet Café industry that they do not constitute a prohibited gambling activity in the manner by which business is conducted on the property, and because we believe that the County Commissioners are concerned with the proliferation of the types of activities, the County Attorney's Office has initiated preparing a potential ordinance for your consideration which would prohibit the use of "simulated gambling devices" on property. We have attached a draft of such an ordinance for your consideration and direction to the County Attorney's Office as to whether you wish us to pursue this matter further.

Seminole County, Florida recently adopted an ordinance attempting to prohibit simulated gaming devices and, upon adoption and enforcement, was served with a Temporary Restraining Order from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, in a suit filed by Allied Veterans of the World, Inc., et al v. Seminole County, Florida, U.S. District Case No. 6:11-cv-155-Orl-28DAB (Attachment # 2).

The 2011 Florida Legislature is attempting to address the issue by the filing of House Bill 217 on January 14, 2011 with the House (a companion bill for the Senate [SB576] was filed on January 25, 2011) seeking to prohibit such establishments by creating the “Electronic Machines and Devices for Sweepstakes Prohibited Act”

In addition, representatives of owners of Internet cafes in and around Leon County and the City of Tallahassee forwarded to the County Attorney’s Office a proposed ordinance regulating Internet cafes in lieu of prohibition for the Board of County Commissioners’ consideration.

Consideration will need to be given as to whether or not this ordinance should be treated as a land use regulatory matter or as a regulation which prohibits both future and existing such uses. In its current format, it is treated as a regulation prohibiting the uses from existing and continuing in operation.

A proposed ordinance would prohibit the use of any and all simulated gambling devices in Leon County. That ordinance is attached.

Stay with WCTV.tv for more on this story.

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Some Florida lawmakers are hoping to pass a new bill this session that would legalize Internet poker. However, it seems this type of Internet gaming is already being played at local "Internet cafes" near you.

Internet Cafes are a trend of the 90's that seem to be making a comeback all over Florida.

These Internet Cafes are serving more than just tea and coffee.
They have lottery games and other vehicles for gambling which skate a fine line between what is legal and what is illegal.

Playing the Florida lottery is legal, so is horse or dog track betting and even most off track betting, and now some Internet cafes have found a loophole by offering a service, such as the Internet, that customers pay to use while allegedly gambling.

"The Leon County Sheriffs office is working with local and state officials to try and determine the legislative intent in the statutes governing Internet cafes, and the reason why is because we have this communities public safety interest at hand." Says SGT James McQuaig of the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

Some of the Internet cafe owners say Florida law protects the cafes because the sweepstakes and prizes are just a bonus to buying the Internet time.

Regardless of what the cafe owners do say, Internet cafes are definitely an agenda item up for discussion at an upcoming Leon county commission meeting.

There are several Internet cafes in Tallahassee and in Gadsden County.


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