Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Patrons, owners plead to keep Pasco sweepstakes cafes open

NEW PORT RICHEY — About 100 fans of Internet sweepstakes cafes flooded the Pasco County commission meeting Tuesday morning to protest the recent raids that have shuttered some of the businesses.

The owners and customers told commissioners the cafes are a clean, safe place to have a little fun.

"As you all can see, the vast majority of the people who go to these places are retired," said patron Wayne Brown. "This gives us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves, get out for a few hours."

Customers who visit sweepstakes cafes purchase Internet time that they use to access casino-style sweepstakes games on computers in the cafes. Points won in the games can be redeemed for cash in the cafes. Some authorities, including Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, say the cafes are gambling houses using computers akin to slot machines.

But sweepstakes cafe proponents point to a different state statute on game promotions. They say the cafes are legal because they are using access to sweepstakes games to promote their businesses.

Bruce Williams, the nationally syndicated radio talk show host based in New Port Richey, owns BlueJay Sweepstakes of Hudson. That café was shut down two weeks ago when 16 deputies raided the business and removed all of the computers.

"You guys have a way to solve this," Williams told commissioners, asking for a six-month hiatus for existing sweepstakes businesses.

That would give enough time, he said, for the Legislature to meet and pass a law to sanction the companies.

But County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder warned that such a move wouldn't necessarily stop the raids.

"You passing an ordinance that grandfathers Internet cafes is not going to remove their (need to) comply with state law," he told commissioners.

Pasco deputies seized about 200 computers July 15 during raids of four sweepstakes cafes, including Bluejay Sweepstakes at 8127 State Road 52 in Hudson; Internet Cafe at 11720 U.S. 19 in Hudson; the Cove at 12124 U.S. 19 in Hudson; and Achievers at 2533 U.S. 19 in Holiday. No one was arrested at any of those businesses.

Pinellas County has led a similar crackdown on sweepstakes cafes, where owners have vowed a legal fight to keep their doors open.

Steinsnyder said he plans to meet with Nocco next week to discuss the issue and would give Pasco commissioners an update after that meeting.

Patrons, owners plead to keep Pasco sweepstakes cafes open 07/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Superintendent will ask Pasco School Board to convert Ridgewood High to magnet


    LAND O'LAKES — It's all but official for Ridgewood High School.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning on Tuesday said he would formally ask the Pasco County School Board on Nov. 7 to approve transforming Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical high school for 2018-19.
  2. Police: Suspicious death in West Tampa likely an isolated incident


    TAMPA — Police are investigating a suspicious death in West Tampa late Tuesday night.

  3. Police investigating North Tampa homicide, likely not related to Seminole Heights slayings


    TAMPA — Police are investigating a homicide in North Tampa early Wednesday morning.

  4. Florida Rep.: Trump says fallen soldier knew what he signed up for (w/video)


    MIAMI — President Donald Trump told the widow of a slain soldier that he "knew what he signed up for," according to a Florida congresswoman.

  5. Wing of Channelside Bay Plaza being demolished to make way for Water Street Tampa


    TAMPA — The developers of Channelside Bay Plaza originally wanted the name to include "Garrison." That would have fit, in a way, because the complex turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    Demolition of the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza is underway, with a big chunk of the building expected to come down today.