Gov. Scott to sign bill banning internet cafe

6:07 PM, Apr 5, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - Governor Rick Scott says he will sign the bill banning all new internet sweepstakes cafes. Café owners and their customers say they've been dealt a losing hand.

While state officials say internet sweepstakes cafés are a "gateway to organized crime and racketeering", businesses like Bit Bar say most are legitimate small businesses that provide jobs and entertainment.

Jimmy Harding works downtown and likes playing the odds a few times a week.

"Get off work, come here have a beer, try to win some money - if not, go on the internet," says Jimmy.

Governor Rick Scott says he will sign a bill outlawing internet cafes. Jimmy says, "It's not fair why anyone should suffer if one person messed up."

State and federal law enforcement officials say Allied Veterans of the World Café ran a 290 million dollar illegal gambling business and as a result, nearly 60 people have been arrested.

"Can't judge all businesses the same," says Ambrel Dunsdan, co-owner of Bit Bar. The business opened a year ago in downtown Tampa.

Ambrel says, "It's just entertainment, all legitimate, we provide people a nice place to play some games, have beer and wine, enjoy sports on the big screen."

Bit Bar owners say they've invested more than 10-thousand dollars on 10 computer stations for internet and simulated slot machine games. A ban on internet cafes would be a loss for them. Ambrel says, "It's going to hurt us. Half of our bar would be gone, we have to figure out different concepts .. even figure out a different name. Bit Bar is with computers."

Once the bill is signed, the ban would take effect July 1st. Internet sweepstakes cafes already in operation can stay open, but the law does give local municipalities the right to regulate and even ban them. The City of Tampa recently voted to ban future cafes, grandfathering 13 existing cafes, but city commissioners added tough restrictions. The governor's office has not said when he will be signing the bill.



Isabel Mascarenas

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