Fla House member opens sweepstakes cafe sheriff considers illegal
PALM HARBOR — State Rep. Peter Nehr has found a new venture to replace his failed flag shop and prop up his sagging financial fortunes: He has opened an Internet sweepstakes cafe, a type of business that Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats considers illegal gambling and has worked to keep out of the county.
Though Coats and his staff met with Nehr last year to talk about the sweepstakes cafe industry, Coats said he didn't know until Tuesday that Nehr had opened a sweepstakes cafe in a Palm Harbor strip center.
Coats wasn't the only official surprised by Nehr's new business. So was state Sen. Mike Fasano.
Fasano, sponsor of a bill in the state Senate to establish new controls over sweepstakes cafes, had recruited Nehr last fall to introduce a companion bill in the House, but Nehr chose not to file the bill. Nehr never told Fasano he was going into the sweepstakes business himself.
"I had no idea and I'm shocked," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. "We reached out to Nehr and he agreed to it. We were disappointed that we were not able to get a House sponsor. I don't want to go beyond that."