Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

AARP blocks Floridians from entering its contests, blames new gambling law

Sorry, grandma and grandpa.

The AARP is blocking Florida residents from participating in its Perfect Path to Retirement $50,000 Giveaway and its forthcoming Grandparents Day Photo Contest because, the group says, of a new state law cracking down on gambling.

The law was quickly passed last month after the arrests of 57 people and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in connection with St. Augustine-based Allied Veterans of the World, which operated a chain of strip mall mini-casinos or so-called "Internet cafes."

To close what they said was a loophole exploited by some Internet cafe companies, lawmakers made sure to eliminate an exception for nonprofit groups that conduct sweepstakes.

But that word change, along with a few others, put AARP's contests potentially in jeopardy.

"AARP Florida was surprised by the consequences of this new law," Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, said in a written statement.

"While we are disappointed for those of our members who won't be able to participate in AARP's contests or sweepstakes," he said, "we are more concerned for how this could impact other nonprofit organizations across the state."

Johnson said the situation was an "unintended consequence," but only Florida — a retiree-heavy state with the second-largest number of AARP members — won't be participating in its cash-reward contests.

That happens with some frequency in the Legislature, which often passes laws to address one situation only to find out that another group is affected. For instance, children's arcade rooms such as Chuck E. Cheese's could be operating outside of the bounds of the new law.

Still, lawmakers and legislative staff are skeptical, but they may entertain clarifying the law if need be.

They said the law was passed to go after Internet cafes and the popular coin-operated maquinitas ("little machines") in Miami-Dade. It's not aimed at AARP holding an incidental contest, said Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who sponsored the bill. "We passed a law because we thought there was a terribly gray area — loopholes had been created to allow drive-by casinos," he said. "So we tried to clarify what gambling was in state of Florida."

Thrasher said he would need to review AARP's legal reasoning before commenting on the particulars of its case.

Thrasher suggested AARP contact authorities, including the attorney general's office, if it's seriously concerned about running afoul of the new gambling crackdown.

Gov. Rick Scott's office had no comment. Scott quietly signed the bill and has avoided talking about some of its particulars.

When asked about the toll of losing an industry-estimated 14,000 jobs linked to the casino-style operations, Scott wouldn't respond last month after he signed the bill.

"I have a jobs agenda,'' he said.

AARP blocks Floridians from entering its contests, blames new gambling law 05/17/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Senate rejects slimmed down Obamacare repeal as McCain votes no (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The Senate early Friday rejected a new, scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, derailing the Republicans' seven-year campaign to dismantle President Barack Obama's signature health care law and dealing a huge political setback to President Donald Trump.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017, after a vote as the Republican majority in Congress remains stymied by their inability to fulfill their political promise to repeal and replace "Obamacare" because of opposition and wavering within the GOP ranks. [Associated Press]
  2. Pasco sheriff's team of volunteer Jeep drivers go where few dare

    Public Safety

    Times Staff Writer

    He got the text in the middle of treating patients. He was needed in the morning — and so was his dark blue 2002 Jeep Wrangler.

    The Pasco County Sheriff's Office's newly-formed Volunteer Jeep Search and Rescue Unit stops for a moment to wait for fellow Jeep drivers to catch up during a mock search-and-rescue exercise and off-road training in Shady Hills in June. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. What you need to know for Friday, July 28


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Jermaine Ferguson takes the $5 entry fee from a visitor at Fort De Soto Park on Wednesday. Pasco County has done away with recession era park fees. What about Pinellas and Hillsborough counties? [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. The Killers coming to Hard Rock Live in Orlando


    They're reliable festival headliners, and they're about to embark on a North American arena tour.

    The KIllers
  5. Back to School 2017: What you need to know


    With the start of classes less than three weeks away, the Tampa Bay Times' back-to-school special report debuts today.

    The Times' annual back-to-school coverage debuts today with information families can use to start the new year. [Times files]