Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Internet sweepstakes cafes put on hold in Clearwater

That Great Place Internet Cafe is one of 12 sweepstakes cafes operating in Clearwater.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2012)

That Great Place Internet Cafe is one of 12 sweepstakes cafes operating in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — Inside a dozen Internet sweepstakes cafes in this city, rows of mostly gray-haired people sit in front of computers that imitate slot machines.

Numbers and symbols slide by on the screens as the computers buzz and clang and make that familiar slot-machine "Ding! Ding! Ding!" sound, occasionally booming out the word "Jackpot!"

The first Internet sweepstakes cafe in Clearwater opened 21 months ago. Now 12 of them are operating, more than in any surrounding city. But no more will be allowed to open — for now.

With little discussion, the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to impose a six-month moratorium on new sweepstakes cafes in Clearwater.

The measure won't close the cafes that are already open, but it will prevent them from expanding and adding more computers.

"So, we're going to let them stay and operate but we're not going to let any new ones open up?" Mayor George Cretekos asked the city's legal advisers. The answer was yes.

The new rule is intended to buy Clearwater some time while local officials wait to see what, if anything, state legislators will do about the cafes that are opening up all over Florida. During the current legislative session, lawmakers will consider two different bills that seek to impose restrictions on the cafes. The issue was debated in the Legislature last year but died after it failed to reach a vote in the Senate.

Clearwater isn't the only city doing this. Tampa imposed a six-month moratorium on new sweepstakes cafes in September and recently extended it. Plant City and Zephyrhills have passed similar moratoriums.

Internet sweepstakes cafes have gotten lawmakers' attention as cities and counties debate whether the gaming rooms promote gambling. The cafes typically feature computers and an attendant. Patrons purchase Internet access or phone cards to enter a sweepstakes. The results play out on computer screens like tumblers on a slot machine.

The debate over the sweepstakes cafes is also playing out in the courts.

Hillsborough County outlawed the cafes last year, prompting a lawsuit by four sweepstakes companies that are suing the county, claiming the ban violates their rights.

In unincorporated Pinellas County, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and his predecessor, Jim Coats, have led aggressive campaigns against the cafes, ordering them to close and, in some cases, seizing their equipment.

This has prompted a federal lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office, which is still pending in court, said Rob Surette, a Clearwater assistant city attorney who is the legal adviser for the city's Police Department.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

New Internet sweepstakes cafes put on hold in Clearwater 03/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players

    Blogs

    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  2. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  3. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.
  4. Committee ranks bidders for Downtown Temple Terrace

    Local Government

    TEMPLE TERRACE — A company that wants to build a bank, retail building and two restaurants in the Downtown Temple Terrace redevelopment area received the highest ranking by a committee reviewing bids to buy city-owned property there.

    Martin Hudson, who has been fascinated with cities since childhood, is in charge of making sure the downtown Temple Terrace gets done. He’s confident “We can do this.’’
  5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday. [Doug Mills/The New York Times]