Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cafe owner accused of running gambling house

Gov. Rick Scott signed a law in April that expanded the definition of illegal gambling machines to include many of the ones found inside sweepstakes cafe operations, authorities say.

Times (2011)

Gov. Rick Scott signed a law in April that expanded the definition of illegal gambling machines to include many of the ones found inside sweepstakes cafe operations, authorities say.

SPRING HILL — Last week, Hernando sheriff's detectives walked through the mirrored doors of the Win City sweepstakes cafe and delivered one last warning: Your video games violate gambling laws and you risk arrest by continuing to operate them.

That warning, authorities say, went unheeded.

"The owner said do whatever you have to do, and yesterday the Sheriff's Office did what it had to do," Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson said Thursday.

On Wednesday, vice detectives raided the cafe at 5130 Commercial Way, arrested 56-year-old Carlos J. Cruz Alverio and hauled off a truck full of computers and other equipment. Cruz Alverio was charged with one count of operating a gambling house and 37 counts of owning gambling devices.

The raid is the latest skirmish in a war against what authorities say are still illegal gambling operations, despite cafe operators' efforts to skirt the law.

"These gaming systems are a prohibited slot machine/device if it is used to display images of games of chance and is part of a scheme involving any payment or donation of money or its equivalent and awarding anything of value," Cruz Alverio's arrest affidavit states.

Cruz Alverio, who could not be reached for comment, told detectives his gaming system is not gambling, based on his understanding of the law.

In the typical sweepstakes cafe, patrons purchase Internet time, play slot machine-like games on computers to accumulate points and redeem winnings in the form of cash or merchandise. In April, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law expanding the definition of illegal gambling machines to include that kind of operation.

After that, the Hernando Sheriff's Office conducted investigations that resulted in the closure of three businesses, including Win City, that were in operation before the state law was passed. Each time, owners closed voluntarily after speaking with detectives. No arrests were made.

According to state records, Cruz Alverio filed as the registered agent of Win City Spring LLC on Sept. 17. The business reopened on Sept. 23 and closed the same day after deputies visited and said the games were still illegal, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said.

The business reopened Oct. 21 after making what the Sheriff's Office called minor changes to the games and business documents. Detectives consulted with Simpson and visited on Oct. 23 with the warning.

The following day, Jacksonville attorney Chris Wickersham Jr., who represents Cruz Alverio, sent a letter to Simpson explaining why the new state law does not apply to Win City's operation.

Patrons tell the operator how many entries into the game they want to purchase and are given a receipt stating exactly how much cash they will win if they decide to continue. They are required to sign a form before they play.

"They're buying a known result," Wickersham said in an interview Thursday. "That fundamentally makes it different than anything that's come previously. It's really no different than paying to play a video game or watching a movie."

Revealing the results ahead of time does not make the operation legal, Simpson said.

"The problem is the mechanism they're using," Simpson said. "It still operates like a slot machine. That's why people are going there in droves."

Cruz Alverio was released from the Hernando County Detention Center early Thursday after posting $19,250 bail, records show. Wickersham said he was looking for a place to live before he got arrested.

Win City's doors remained locked. The phone number on the door is no longer in service.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Cafe owner accused of running gambling house 10/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 9:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.