County Commisioners address rise of 'Sweepstakes Cafes' in Hillsborough

10/20/11 Jean Henry Telcy
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

So-called “sweepstakes cafes” are sprouting up across the state. Some say they operate in a legal “grey area” and promote gambling.

Republican Commissioner Sandra Murman vehemently opposes these cafes and proposed an ordinance to ban new ones.

Sweepstakes cafes are a rising business across the state of Florida. There are 30 in Hillsborough County, 8 of which opened in the past month. Patrons pay for internet time and get free sweepstakes entries. Most use these entries to play “slot-style” computer games for a chance to win cash prizes. Commissioner Kevin Beckner is concerned about possible illicit activity by some sweepstake café owners and what he believes to be exploitative behavior.

All members agreed that a resolution was needed before any decisive action could be taken. Commissioner Victor Crist believes similar resolutions from the 66 other counties in the state would force State Legislators to act.

Commissioner Beckner also cites what could be an unfair advantage of sweepstake cafes when compared to the state lottery and Indian casinos.

The Commission plans to hold a public hearing on sweepstakes cafes on Nov. 19.

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