Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa council moves to put six-month halt to new Internet sweepstakes cafes

TAMPA — A six-month halt on new Internet sweepstakes cafes inside Tampa city limits won initial approval Thursday from the City Council.

Officially known as a temporary abatement, the moratorium is meant to give the city time to enact its own ordinance regulating the cafes. Those businesses allow customers to participate in sweepstakes contests. But instead of getting scratch-off tickets to find out their winnings, they use computers that often simulate the spinning reels of a slot machine.

If passed in a second vote on Oct. 18, the six-month abatement will not affect Tampa's existing Internet cafes. The city has four that are open, with a fifth under construction, according to business tax records.

"If you're operating today, and you met code at the time you were operating, this would not impact you," senior assistant city attorney Julia Mandell told the council. Also exempt would be the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, Tampa Bay Downs, the Tampa Greyhound track, authorized bingo games and arcades properly operated under state law.

Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin brought up the idea of regulating cafes in March. On Sept. 20, the council voted to look into passing such an ordinance.

As a model, the city is expected to look to the city of Jacksonville, which limits the number of permits it will issue for Internet cafes, bases its permit fees on the number of machines in the cafes, requires security cameras and guards, and bans alcohol and minors from the cafes.

Tampa council members also have talked about requiring Internet cafes to have a minimum size and a minimum number of machines. Capin has said she wants to avoid a proliferation of sweepstakes cafes where coffee shops set up a machine or two in a back room.

The council is scheduled to discuss its options Nov. 29.

So far, city officials are taking a different path than did Hillsborough County.

In December, county commissioners voted to prohibit "simulated gambling devices." Seminole County, Orange County, and the cities of Winter Garden and Longwood have adopted similar bans.

Less than two weeks later, four sweepstakes companies sued the county in federal court. The suit, which is pending, claims Hillsborough's 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.

The ordinance establishing Tampa's temporary abatement notes that state law does not clearly define whether simulated gambling devices are, in fact, slot machines regulated by the state.

Council Chairman Charlie Miranda voted yes Thursday, but said he would vote no next month unless the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is brought into the discussion.

"We're getting into an area that's really state-driven," he said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Comments
Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

TAMPA — USF used a 21-3 run midway through the second half en route to an 83-63 win over Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night before an announced 2,091 at the Sun Dome.The victory halted a four-game losing streak for the Bulls (5-6)."We got defensive st...
Updated: 1 hour ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

TAMPA — Police are seeking a "person of interest" who they believe has information about a Dec. 3 drive-by shooting that killed a 22-year-old man.Police are searching for Anan Motilal, 25. He stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He may have ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., Dec. 14, midday:97 796 8399e_SRit63724Thurs., Dec. 14, evening:37 731 1382e_SRit63276LottoWed., ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pinellas Park officer stuns middle school student with Taser

PINELLAS PARK — A school resource officer stunned a middle school student with a Taser while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, police said.Neither the Pinellas Park officer nor the students involved in the...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Updated: 2 hours ago