Internet cafes on path to being banned

Ordinance to ban Internet cafes gets a quick first nod from City Commission

Published: Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.

The Gainesville City Commission gave its initial approval for a permanent ban on Internet cafes in a quick, unanimous vote Thursday, although the proposal still needs a second vote from the board to become official.

The city had already approved a six-month moratorium on new Internet cafes in January that it later extended to Sept. 18.

The proposed ordinance would make the ban permanent. Specifically, it would amend the city's land development code to prohibit simulated gambling establishments, which are commonly called Internet cafes, from operating in Gainesville.

The ordinance will become effective upon receiving a second and final approval from the City Commission, Senior Planner Andrew Persons said.

There were about two dozen Internet cafes in Gainesville in 2011. Customers could buy Internet time at these cafes and would be given sweepstakes entries in return that showed cash prizes as simulated slots on a computer screen.

Internet cafes drew scrutiny across the state when a criminal investigation into Allied Veterans of the World, an Internet cafe operator, was conducted regarding allegations that the supposed charity had pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars while donating only a fraction of the funds it collected to veterans organizations.

Jennifer Carroll, the state's former lieutenant governor, resigned during the investigation, which itself led to dozens of indictments. She had been a consultant for Allied Veterans in the past.

The Florida Legislature passed a law intended to shut down Internet cafe operations last year, although it wasn't an outright ban. Internet cafes eventually started opening once again around the state, including Gator Hot Spots, at 2109 NW 13th St., and Royal Sweepstakes, at 2615 NW 13th St., in Gainesville.

Gator Hot Spots was raided by police and was shut down last September, and Royal Sweepstakes ultimately closed as well.

Persons said it is his understanding that no Internet cafes are currently operating in Gainesville.

The Gainesville Police Department recommended prohibiting the Internet cafes. Persons pointed out that even if one of these operations is shut down, it requires an investigation by the Gainesville Police Department.

With this prohibition, the cafes wouldn't be allowed to open in the first place.

"This zoning change will basically eliminate the need for an investigation," he said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top