[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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Mr. Patrick Location: Tallahassee on Mar 18, 2011 at 11:44 AM
    The question is not about the internet cafe's. The real question is about jobs. what make a group of any sort to judge if poker at a dog track or a going to a casino on a different type of soil any different? The bottom line is if you put money in the right pockets it's ok to do what every makes money for the hands that open behind closed doors. So you say internet cafe need to be closed? I look at it like this If there is a New business that puts people to work in a very unstable job market why would you clos it down? No one goes in with out knowing the risk just like a casino or a dog track or even a Horse track heading to our area soon. My rights by law protects me to walk in a business that has a county or city business license and enjoy my heard earned money. On the other hand, If someone receive money from the government they should be punished and like wise for a business that take the card. To reach me I will check out here for a post...
  • by keke Location: tally on Mar 17, 2011 at 05:52 PM
    I go to the internet cafe, my sweetie and I and its some were we can get some time away from home away from the kids to laugh and talk and just have a good time together. We have fun together and Its our money that we are spending so if you dont like it STAY HOME... O go else were :)
  • by bl Location: Tallahassee on Mar 7, 2011 at 05:28 AM
    I was told that the reporter tried to contact this charity to verify that money was being given to them, and the Childrens' Cancer Fund had never heard of the internet cafe in question (featured in the video). This was determined after the broadcast, therefore left out of the story. Start looking for new jobs now, internet cafe employees.
  • by brad Location: some where on Feb 24, 2011 at 03:07 PM
    i work at an internet cafe. we are open 7 days a week to those whome want to come on by. lol look i have people that come in here to get away from home for the pice an to be with friends i have cops come in an play even people that have goverment jobs ............i have 2 kids an a wife that needs my help i did not have a job for over a year tell i started working here i thank florida for not closeing these places down i still have a job an not getting goverment checks thank god for that thanks rick scott we are working.............
  • by Anonymous Location: Tallahassee on Feb 23, 2011 at 03:34 PM
    HERE'S THE SOLUTION: For those of you who don't want the internet cafes in the area, stay home out of those areas. Besides it's not YOUR money. For those who enjoy internet cafes just ask Rick Scott to tell his friends to invest in the cafes, he'll "get to work" keeping the bill out of the session this summer!
  • by Mike on Feb 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
    If people want to spend their money that way, let them. the county is simply upset because they can't figure out how they can get a piece of that pie.
  • by big mama J Location: quincy on Feb 22, 2011 at 01:22 PM
    I walked into one of the 5 ,,in Quincy yesterday just to see what they were doing,,, I seen people in there that I KNOW are on welfare, geting food stamps and checks for their kids,, Two women I live close to get all the Gov stuff ,check for 3 kids each have ,, they have no Jobs, F/stamps ,,help with their light bills and Phone bill ,plus free cell phones,, gold around the neck and gold teeth ,,what in wrong here ,,???/I also know some clubs that have machine for pull tabs , peoples on Gav. help should not be in these place playing ..I call them sorry trash
  • by anonymous Location: tallahassee on Feb 22, 2011 at 01:16 PM
    It's definitely gambling; I go every now and then. They implement it in such a way that they are selling internet time. Criticism of this is the same as the lottery; generally the poorest people play. Lottery is still going so I don't see a reason to shut these down. This is nothing new. I know people that win, but they usually have lost more than they have won- again nothing new. I'm not really all for government trying to protect people from their vices in the first place. My opinion, regulate it, try to reduce corruption, and leave it alone. And FYI- unemployment benefits really serve the purpose of keeping cash flow in the economy; the people can spend the money however they wish. (as far as unemployment, the problem isn't the people, it's the policy IMO)
  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM
    why really worry about it. People are going to gamble and you are not going to stop them. Before you complain about these places, stop and think about your little office football pool, that is against the law. What about gambling when you buy florida lottery tickets?? is that any different than the internet cafes?? Really, want to try and defend the lottery, the horse tracks, the dog tracks and your little office football pool?? it's all gambling, so why worry about the cafes?? The county commission should not pass an ordiance and take the risk of having to spend money in court to defend it, just hold off and see if the state is going to ban it state wide. If so, then they will be the ones defending it in court, not the county. Guess people have nothing more to do than try to shut down something they dont like. If you dont like it, dont go in there. If you know how they operate, you must have lost some money in there and not are mad about loosing.
  • by LOL Lawyer on Feb 22, 2011 at 12:25 PM
    Sarah -- you received your Juris Doctorate through an internet cafe, didn't you? Your grammar and spelling are atrocious!!!
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