Tampa city council puts restrictions on Internet cafes - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa city council puts restrictions on Internet cafes

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Tampa city council vote allows existing Internet cafes like this one on Florida Ave. to stay open, with restrictions. Tampa city council vote allows existing Internet cafes like this one on Florida Ave. to stay open, with restrictions.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

The Tampa city council weighed in on a hot-button issue today: Internet cafes.

By a unanimous vote, the council decided the thirteen existing cafes in Tampa with simulated gambling machines, like the Bit Bar in downtown Tampa, will be allowed to remain open. 

The council voted to ban other businesses from operating similar machines in the city limits.

Julia Mandell, a senior assistant city attorney, said, "Internet cafes can continue to operate. I still think that is an important point, it is the simulated gambling devices, and no new simulated gambling devices under this ordinance will be allowed in the city of Tampa."

The ordinance also restricts the existing Internet cafes from expanding or applying for an alcohol permit if they don't already have one.  Those are rules Adam Keeble, the operator of the Lucky Charmz Internet cafe, says he can live with.

"We are fine with everything we have done everything by the books since days one and we will continue to do it by the books as long as we do what we are asked," said Keeble.

Right now in Tallahassee, lawmakers are considering a statewide ban on Internet cafes in the wake of a massive investigation that led to the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll.  Their decision could impact the ordinance passed by the Tampa city council today.

"I am going to be monitoring the state legislature very, very closely," said councilman Frank Reddick, "and as soon as the session is over and I am satisfied with what they decide to do, I am going to put the motion in place for a full ban."

Some Internet cafe operators, like Peter Braak, hope lawmakers on the local and state level look at regulating the industry instead of trying to shut it down.

"We are really hoping they take a more regulatory approach than trying to close these businesses down," Braak said.  "There are a lot of jobs at stake and we hope they try to keep an open mind on that."

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