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Tampa moves to enact permanent ban on Internet sweepstakes cafes

TAMPA — It looks like Tampa's temporary ban on new Internet sweepstakes cafes isn't going away.

The City Council moved Thursday to make permanent what has been a six-month moratorium on new sweepstakes cafes, which allow customers to play games on computers that simulate the spinning reels of a slot machine.

Tampa currently has 13 sweepstakes cafes. Council members had planned to discuss regulating the industry, but changed directions after noting that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Hillsborough County's ban had come to an end.

"If they are banned in Hillsborough County but regulated within the city of Tampa, anyone who is looking to operate sweepstakes machines anywhere in the area is going to locate within the city," council member Lisa Montelione said. "I don't want to see a proliferation of sweepstakes machines in the city of Tampa."

City attorneys are scheduled to bring back an ordinance to make the ban permanent on March 7. The city's six-month moratorium, enacted last fall, is due to expire next month.

In addition, council members asked the city's legal staff to draft rules that would prevent those 13 existing Internet sweepstakes cafes from adding any more machines. They also would lose their ability to use the sweepstakes computers if they moved or suspended operations for 30 days or more.

And they would be banned from selling alcohol, unless, as at least one cafe has done, they have applied for and received a license or permit allowing them to do so.

In unrelated business, the council also:

• Voted 4-2 to ask the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission to review a new set of regulations for backyard chickens.

As proposed, Tampa homeowners could have one chicken for every 1,000 square feet of lot size. No roosters would be allowed. The chickens would have to be inside a fenced yard, and each chicken-owning household would have to have a coop. Council members Frank Reddick and Mike Suarez opposed the rules, and council chairman Charlie Miranda was absent at the vote.

"I just think personally if you're going to raise some chickens, breed some chickens, you should do it out there in the unincorporated part of the county," Reddick said. "You've got all the land you want out there, to do it."

Reddick also questioned whether the city's code enforcement staff would have the staffing to enforce the rules.

"Code enforcement is overloaded with responsibility, and it seems like we continue to add on additional responsibility," he said.

Also opposing the change of rules was the civic umbrella group Tampa Homeowners, An Association of Neighborhoods.

But supporters said they expect the ordinance to provide rules for people who already keep chickens. It won't, they say, lead to a boom in the number of chickens in the city.

"There are lots and lots of chickens in our neighborhoods, and you don't know about them because they really usually aren't a problem," council member Mary Mulhern said. "It's going to be okay."

• Decided to send a letter to the Hillsborough County Commission urging it to reconsider a recent vote not to establish a domestic partnership registry. "If we accept and promote our diversity and the creativity that comes with it, our reward will be a more livable, thriving and prosperous community," council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said.

Tampa moves to enact permanent ban on Internet sweepstakes cafes 02/21/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 12:00am]
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