Internet Cafe Limbo

Sep 1, 2011

The following article was published by the Capital News Service on September 1, 2011:

Internet Cafe Limbo

By Whitney Ray

No one in Florida is keeping track of how many internet cafes are operating, and the lack of a statewide policy has some counties closing them down, others suing them, and still others registering the simulated gambling storefronts. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the businesses have sprung up by the hundreds, if not thousands.

Internet cafes thrive in a gray area of Florida law, registering as sweepstakes. This one is just seven blocks from the state capitol. At noon, a half dozen people inside pushed buttons turning computer screens into what looked like a slot machine.

No statewide policy governs the cafes. One central Florida county tried to close them, but It quickly got caught in a federal law suit.

Leon County took a different approach.

“It requires all of the existing places in town to receive a permit as a simulated gambling facility,” said Herb Thiele, Leon County Attorney.

On Wednesday, deputies in the capital city visited the owners of four cafes that failed to meet a deadline to register.

Inside this convenience store, they found the operator had gotten rid of the machines. Other cafes are on notice they have to close.

“We’ll go back and visit in the future just to make sure that they’re not up and operating,” said detective Brandon Cotcliffe.

Banning the internet cafes is one of the top priorities of the Florida’s Sheriffs in the upcoming legislative session.

For the second year in a row, State Representative Scott Plakon has filed legislation to ban the cafes.

“The legislature, we’re supposed to solve problems. And having 500 store front casino’s in our state, right next to the dry cleaner, is a problem that needs to be solved,” said Plakon.

Most counties are pushing lawmakers for those answers sooner rather than later.

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