Brooksville Police Chief George Turner on Thursday morning drove by Lucky’s and Kiwi’s, the only two sweepstakes parlors in the city, to make sure the doors were closed.
Gov. Rick Scott a day earlier signed House Bill 155 making these gaming centers illegal and leaving enforcement up to local police and sheriff’s deputies.
Not only were they closed, Turner said, but also they had the names of politicians affixed to the door, hoping patrons would call and complain.
Turner said he hadn’t received any complaints when they were open and believed they were a recreational alternative for seniors.
“I’ve never had any issues with ours here,” Turner said. “I don’t know if I’d want them on every corner but I think they should be regulated. I think it’s unfortunate for (seniors) who now have lost their social (venues) but I wouldn’t want them to be victimized either.”
Turner said a good many of the patrons will likely head to Tampa’s Hard Rock Casino where gambling is still legal.
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he will enforce the ban on Internet cafes and make routine visits to make sure they are closed.
Nienhuis, in a statement, said Florida sheriffs “have a long history of taking a strong stand against the expansion of gambling in Florida” and referenced the recent scandal that led to this week’s action.
A state investigation against Allied Veterans of the World showed that RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) crimes are closely associated with gambling, the sheriff’s office said.
“This law will clarify those laws already on the books — laws that many believe intended to make this activity illegal,” according to Nienhuis.
Owners of Internet cafes are understandably upset and vow to lobby legislators.
Terry Kasberg, owner of Spinners Internet Cafe Sweepstakes in Spring Hill, said the rent is paid up through the end of the month, at which time he will be forced to take drastic action. He didn’t rule out filing for bankruptcy.
Kasberg knew he was taking a risk in opening up the cafe, given the controversy swirling around the industry. But he thought the state would issue stiffer regulations and at least give owners time.
He believes Scott and other legislators supporting his action will pay a steep price at re-election time.
“They’ve ruined my life so I’m going to make sure I do my best to ruin their lives,” Kasberg said.
“It goes beyond logic what they’ve done,” Kasberg said.