Internet sweepstakes cafes are opening at such a pace in Florida that theNew York Times even took note in a story Friday, referring to these businesses that offer slot-style games in strip-center storefronts as “convenience casinos.”
There are now more than 1,000 of the cafes throughout the state, the St. Petersburg Times has reported, and the number is growing exponentially.
But not, apparently, in Pinellas County, where Sheriff Jim Coats is determined to keep them out.
While many law enforcement agencies seem uncertain about whether sweepstakes cafes are illegal, Coats is resolute: They are nothing more than gambling houses, he says. He ran them out of the county once before, and he’s about to do it again.
“I just can’t ignore it. Then there would be one on every street corner,” he said.
Coats had hoped the Florida Legislature would settle the debate about whether Internet sweepstakes cafes are illegal by clarifying the state’s gambling laws. But the Legislature adjourned its 2011 session Friday without doing that, so Coats is preparing to move against four Pinellas sweepstakes cafes, including one owned by state Rep. Peter Nehr in Palm Harbor.
His agency will send letters to the four cafes and any others he receives complaints about, ordering them to close unless they can convince him they are not illegal.
The four cafes, all in north Pinellas, are Nehr’s Fun City Sweepstakes, Reel Fun in Palm Harbor, Fun City Sweepstakes in Largo and the Fraternal Order of Eagles cafe in Palm Harbor. Continue reading DeMorris Lee’s story here.