Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tampa takes up Internet sweepstakes cafes

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 4:50 PM

After a nearly 90-minute discussion, Tampa City Council members voted today to have a city attorney come back next week, where they will vote on imposing a moratorium on the creation of Internet sweepstakes cafes.

The cafés (of which there are an estimated 6-8 operating in the city) sell phone cards and provide Internet access to customers. They're frequently used to promote Internet access to sweepstakes games that look like video slot machines.

Hillsborough County passed an ordinance banning such cafes last December, but the case is currently in litigation, as two different operators have sued, challenging the ban violates their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

There is also ongoing litigation involving Seminole County attempting to ban such cafes.

The state has never acted to create any legislation banning such cafes.

City attorney Julie Mandell recommended three different options to the City Council, with the seemingly most logical one being to take no action at all, as those two other court cases are still very much in flux.

Another option would be to adopt a policy akin to the one in Jacksonville. That particular ordinance charges a business fee per machine for inspections.

The Council will vote on whether to adopt a moratorium on such Internet cafes at next week's meeting.

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