Future of Internet Cafes Uncertain

Sweepstakes scandal. A federal investigation claims Allied Veterans of the World lied to customers, operating internet cafes for profit, not to help soldiers.

Tuesday a massive raid found just two percent of the nearly 300 million dollars the purported non-profit made was spent on veterans.

The bust shut down 51 internet cafes all over the state including this location in Tallahassee. Five miles away at the state capitol the question is being raised should they all be shut down?

“These are truly the crack cocaine of gaming,” said Rep. Scott Plakon.

The Florida House answered the question last year, passing a bill by Former Representative Scott Plakon to ban all internet cafes, but the senate never took it up.

“I’m going to suggest that we move a little faster on that now.”

This year Senator John Thrasher is sponsoring a bill that would ban the expansion of internet cafes. In light of the raid, he’s now considering outlawing them all.

“Now I believe the evidence has come out that indicates these things were exactly what we though they were. They’ve been corrupted. There’s a problem with them. Counties and Cities are having problems. Law enforcement is having problems,” said Sen. John Thrasher.

Daniel Russell is a Tallahassee attorney representing gaming interests in Florida. Russell says internet cafes only exist through a loophole in state law.

“It really is a policy call from the legislature. What do you want to do with these things. You’ve acknowledged there maybe a thousand operating today,” said Walker.

And for those still in business increased scrutiny is in the future, “They have to go justify their existence and I don’t think they can do that,” said Thrasher, as lawmakers look at how best to regulate the industry.

In a news release sent from Senate President Don Gaetz at 4:30 Wednesday, he says the Senate Gaming Committee will meet Monday to consider an outright ban on internet cafes. Gaetz says he fully supports a ban.