Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Ban Internet gambling cafes

There are an estimated 1,000 Internet sweepstakes cafes in Florida, yet not a single one is regulated by state gambling officials. But now that a sweeping racketeering investigation has led the lieutenant governor to resign, state leadership appears to have finally coalesced around banning this burgeoning, predatory industry. It can't come too soon. Local governments, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, have shown far more courage in protecting Floridians. Florida does not need more gambling.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's abrupt resignation Wednesday came a day after she was interviewed concerning her affiliation, while serving as a Jacksonville-area legislator, with an Internet cafe operator called Allied Veterans of the World & Affiliates. On Wednesday, federal and state officials announced 57 arrest warrants in 23 Florida counties and five other states in connection with 49 Allied Veterans' cafes. Two of those arrested were Jacksonville police officers. Carroll has not been implicated and her running mate, Gov. Rick Scott, said he knew of no allegations of illegal activity. She owned a public relations firm used by Allied Veterans in 2009 and 2010.

It is an ignominious end for an multistate operation that persuaded Florida lawmakers for years to turn a blind eye, through state lobbying and political donations, and by filing lawsuits — all the while claiming they were raising money to help veterans. And now a federal affidavit shows why: Four co-conspirators alone are believed to have pocketed a whopping $90 million in proceeds over four years just for themselves while charities received less than 2 percent of the estimated $300 million in revenue.

On the local level, however, where the societal impact of this fiscal drain is most evident, the cafe operators have not been nearly so successful. This week, the Pinellas County Commission became the latest government to consider a formal ban on operators, building on years of law enforcement action by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and predecessor Jim Coats. Hillsborough County banned them in 2011. The Pinellas commission voted to query whether municipalities would support a ban. They should. Clearwater City Council just passed its own six-month moratorium on additional cafes last week.

Also signing up in opposition: The Tampa City Council voted last month to extend permanently its moratorium on new Internet cafes. Moratoriums are not ideal solutions — in Tampa, 13 existing Internet cafes can continue to operate within city limits but they cannot add additional gambling machines at those locations or the sale of alcohol — but they are more than Tallahassee has done.

That should soon change. On Wednesday, Republican leaders who have unsuccessfully backed bans in the past were quick to seize the moment, including House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz. Scott last year also said he would support a ban, but in the end did nothing to make it happen. Now he has every reason to, and to demand that the Republican-controlled Legislature do the same. There is no excuse.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18