Palm Beach County Action on Internet Cafes/Casinos

Sun Sentinel Article: “Palm Beach County proposes ban on Internet cafes with casino-style games:Temporary moratorium would allow time for new regulations”

By Andy Reid, Sun Sentinel


7:40 p.m. EST, December 1, 2011

Palm Beach County may ban new Internet cafes that

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critics say allow unregulated gambling under the guise of arcade-style gaming.

Internet cafes, spreading to shopping centers across the state, feature computer games where players can win gift cards or other prizes.

The Palm Beach County Commission on Thursday proposed a temporary moratorium to stop the spread of the cafes while the county considers imposing rules on where they can open and what type of gaming should be allowed.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the moratorium in February.

“They just kind of pop up,” Commissioner Karen Marcus said. “They are a form of gambling that is unregulated. (We need to) make sure people aren't going in there and getting scammed.”

Duval and Leon counties already regulate Internet cafes, and other counties and cities across the state are considering similar measures.

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href=”http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/” target=”_blank”>Palm Beach County's moratorium would not affect existing Internet cafes, and it would only temporarily ban new ones in areas outside of city limits.

County officials plan to work with local cities to see if they want to approve similar measures.

A tricky part of crafting the new regulations will be defining what is an Internet cafe. County officials say they don't want to limit restaurants that just offer Internet access or traditional children's arcades.

The “sweepstakes” offered through computer games at legitimate Internet cafes are marketing promotions used to sell products such as Internet time or phone cards, said Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis, who represents many of the businesses.

“I don't know that a moratorium is really necessary,” Mathis said. “Most operators are not opposed to reasonable regulations.”

This potential crackdown on Internet cafes comes as South Florida officials are angling to allow more gambling as a potential tourist attraction.

The Legislature is being asked to allow Las Vegas-style casino resorts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Palm Beach County officials have said they want the chance to ask local voters to approve allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club near Palm Beach International Airport.


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