Monday, February 19, 2018
Politics

Tarpon Springs will consider ban on sweepstakes cafes

Tarpon Springs — Tarpon Springs may join Tampa and Clearwater in implementing a moratorium on applications for new Internet sweepstakes cafes.

The move comes as Pinellas County and the Florida Legislature grapple with proposals to limit or ban the cafes, which operate in a legal gray area.

Tarpon Springs City Attorney Jim Yacavone recommended the six-month prohibition on the cafes at Tuesday's City Commission meeting and commissioners signaled their support. He will draft the ban and present it to the commission for a vote.

Internet cafes, which offer computerized games that imitate slot machines, have proliferated throughout the state in recent years.

After Tarpon Springs approved one cafe in February, two more applied for permits but did not show up for scheduled appointments with the city's Planning and Zoning Board.

The ban could not prevent the business approved in February from opening as planned, Yacavone said.

"All the moratorium does is say, 'Look, something's cropped up that needs some study, so we're putting a stop to anything more while we try to figure out what, if anything, needs to be done,' " Yacavone said.

Cities have long struggled to interpret the antiquated state "sweepstakes" law that applies to Internet cafes, and the Legislature has repeatedly stamped out measures to update the law.

The issue seemed to gain a little traction in the Legislature last week after the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who was questioned over her ties to Internet gaming company Allied Veterans of the World, accused of operating a $300 million racketeering, gambling and money laundering scheme under the guise of charity.

The cafes circumvent the state gambling ban by using sweepstakes to attract customers who pay for Internet time. Attorneys for the sweepstakes cafes have argued the model is similar to scratch-off sweepstakes games at McDonald's.

The lack of guidance from the state has caused cafes to be banned in some places, while they operate unhampered in others.

Local governments that enact ordinances against the cafes often face expensive litigation, but that's a risk Pinellas County seems willing to take. The Pinellas County Commission sent a letter to Tarpon officials Tuesday seeking approval for a countywide ban on the cafes. The letter argues the county doesn't need to wait for state lawmakers to act.

"Pinellas County's position is that the operation of these businesses is inconsistent with current law," the letter reads.

It's unclear from the letter who would enforce the countywide ban or defend lawsuits that could result from it.

Contact Brittany Alana Davis at [email protected] or 850-323-0353. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

The White House was under siege.Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught chargin taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extram...
Updated: 2 hours ago
President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Donald Trump signaled support for one piece of gun control legislation on Monday, five days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and scores injured."The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

One of the quotes from the 2016 presidential campaign that has stuck with me came from an unidentified Donald Trump supporter who shared his appraisal of the "Access Hollywood" tape on an episode of Showtime’s "The Circus."Having heard Trump boast on...
Published: 02/18/18
Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive. "You're the president. You're supposed t...
Published: 02/18/18
Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

Trump adviser: Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

MUNICH — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, a blunt statement that shows how significantly the new criminal charges leveled by an...
Published: 02/17/18
Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style fi...
Published: 02/17/18
Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn Wednesday’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Published: 02/17/18
Divided Congress unable to act on guns, immigration despite public pressure

Divided Congress unable to act on guns, immigration despite public pressure

It’s been five years since the guns and immigration debate collided at the same time on Capitol Hill. This time, the results were even more unproductive.In early 2013, weeks after a gunman killed 20 students and six educators at an elementary school ...
Published: 02/17/18
Stormy Daniels does Tampa: 10 minutes of dancing, then $20 a photo

Stormy Daniels does Tampa: 10 minutes of dancing, then $20 a photo

TAMPA — Well, that was fast.Adult film actress Stormy Daniels made her first appearance at Thee Dollhouse on Friday evening, the first of several shows planned this weekend at the Tampa strip club.She took the stage about 7 p.m. dressed in a pink, fl...
Published: 02/16/18

3 things we just learned from the indictment of 13 Russians in the Mueller investigation

We have the first indictment in Robert Mueller’s investigation that actually has to do with Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The special counsel on Friday indicted 13 Russians in connection with a large-scale troll farm effort aimed at influenc...
Published: 02/16/18