Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

City Council bans new simulated gambling games for six months

TAMPA — City Council members voted Thursday to prohibit new businesses from offering simulated gaming for the next six months, an effort designed to halt the spread of Internet sweepstakes cafes.

The temporary ban should allow the Florida Legislature time to regulate the casino-style sweepstakes games that popped up in Internet cafes in Tampa during the past five years, senior assistant city attorney Julia Mandell told the council.

The games are typically packaged to customers as a bonus when they buy Internet time.

Many such businesses closed soon after opening, leaving just five within the city limits on tax records.

These will be allowed to continue to operate under the ordinance.

Council member Lisa Montelione said she recently drove past two Internet cafes that sit across from each other along Busch Boulevard in strip malls.

"It was very disturbing," she said. "Not the kind of place I'd even want to go in and look around."

It's an industry that has boomed in Florida because of a legal gray area.

Several local governments, including Hillsborough County, have voted to prohibit the games.

But four sweepstakes companies sued the county, claiming the ban violates the cafes' First Amendment rights of free speech, unlawfully interferes with commerce and deprives them of equal protection and due process of law.

Mandell said the city's ruling on the games could be superseded by the outcome of a federal lawsuit, as well as laws that get passed during the 2013 legislative session.

She told the council she consulted with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and was told: "They don't believe simulated gaming is legal. However, Florida has not made it clear."

At a prior council meeting, members suggested lumping Internet cafes into a new tax category to levy an additional fee. But the statute prohibits new business categories, said Sal Territo, chief assistant city attorney.

Council chairman Charlie Miranda cautioned members that they were making regulations for evolving games that could move offshore and be even more difficult to oversee.

"These things could get out of hand," he said.

Members will discuss the gaming devices further in a December workshop meeting.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

City Council bans new simulated gambling games for six months 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.