Monday, June 18, 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
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ĎWalk the DistrictíStephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Updated: 8 hours ago
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA ó June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes donít seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18