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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How 'Veterans' group used loophole in sweepstakes law to create explosion of strip mall gambling

23

October

Allied Veterans has capitalized on a loophole in state law to use the state's sweepstakes rules to create an exploding industry in so-called "Internet cafes." With bills to either outlaw or regulate them in the upcoming legislative session, the issue will be a hot one. Story here:

Perhaps no one has fought harder to legitimize the exploding Internet sweepstakes cafe industry in Florida than Allied Veterans of the World & Affiliates.

Allied, one of the state's largest sweepstakes cafe operators, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on state lobbyists and contributed $25,000 for a Gov. Rick Scott inauguration event. It has battled local sheriffs and slapped Seminole County with a federal lawsuit. Its former public relations firm was once headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

Johnny E. Duncan, the non­profit's longtime national commander, is the man who steered Allied into the sweepstakes cafe business. He hands out checks given to veterans groups and poses for photos with politicians.

But Duncan used to run a different game, for a different veterans charity. It got him investigated in one state, arrested in another.

Bingo.

Duncan ran one of the largest bingo networks in South Carolina in the 1980s, a time when charities were being used as moneymaking fronts for game promoters.

A South Carolina newspaper raised questions about the legitimacy of his veterans charity and others, prompting a tax commission probe and, eventually, reform legislation that cracked down on abuses in the industry.

Then there was Florida.

In 1987, the Leon County Sheriff's Office arrested Duncan for running an illegal gambling house. Investigators found "fraudulent" documents for the veterans charity being used to run bingo games. He pleaded no contest to a charge of unlawful bingo. He got a fine and a year's probation.

But that didn't stop him from coming back — with Allied Veterans. Read full story here.

[Last modified: Sunday, October 23, 2011 1:48pm]

    

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