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Gaming Still Alive in Florida

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Gambling loopholes brew from PCB 668
 
On a meeting with the Senate Gambling Committee last week, gaming expert Marc Dunbar from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers laid out on the table the odds gambling operations might take advantage of to keep their business alive in Florida.
Based on Dunbar’s arguments, PCB 668, a bill supposed to fix a law legislated last year which compromised arcades during a crackdown on storefront casinos, was laden with loopholes now hiring 250x45that had given traction to  legally suspect gambling operations in the state.
According to Dunbar, a professor at the Florida State University who specializes in gaming law, the bill’s slack wordings would egg on an outbreak of the strip mall casinos shutdown a year ago.
After Dunbar’s presentation, the senate debated on the issue of senior arcades’ innocence with their set of slot machine-like gambling devices arranged in long rows inside their establishments.
However, the senators paid no heed on the expert’s warning and voted unanimously on the bill.
In 2013 several senior arcade operators remodelled their machines and prizes to comply with House Bill 155 approved by Governor Rick Scott. The law which took effect immediately following the resignation of Gov. Jennifer Carroll whose name was dragged over the Allied Veterans of the World charity scam had shut down around 1,000 operations in Florida.
Later that year, Senator Jack Latvala announced that he wanted to amend HB 177, a bill which drawn establishments like Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese’s in a lawsuit for violating the law. After HB 177 compromised claw machines which offer patrons various stuff toys inside a transparent box are being closed in accordance with the new law, Latvala vowed to make changes and fix the law.Pre-Reveal-Gold
Back in the 90’s, loopholes granted gambling boats access to Florida. The ships cruised anywhere and docked at ports within the state’s boundaries.
In 1979, the limitation of bingo wagering to charitable cause with a maximum pot of $100 provided a gateway to the opening of seven casinos in Florida operated by the Seminole’s tribe.
These loopholes also opened the door to poker rooms and slot machine racinos camouflaged as faux racing and jai-alai events.
The new bill intended not to curb problems in the future, but to correct the past, said the Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples. Let’s just hope that this bill would not create the same problems created in the past, so as not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Kelly Mathis Vows Appeal, Awaits Sentencing

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What Is the Definition of Gambling In Florida ?

SANFORD, FLORIDA – On Friday Oct 11, a Florida jury found Kelly Mathis, the lawyer for a ring of  gambling cafes, guilty on over 100 counts, including racketeering and possession of an illegal slot machine . The verdict marked the conclusion of the first criminal trial that could set precedent for the remainder of the Florida defendants that are awaiting trial.

Kelly Mathis Vows a Appeal of Verdict

Members of the industry, for years now, have made the argument that their sweepstakes cafes, which were outlets where paying customers purchase a promoted product and are given sweepstakes entries on computers that mimic slot machines, but do not represent the states definition of ‘gambling’.

Multiple law enforcement officials, along with state prosecutors, on the contrary, have argued that the “sweepstakes” games constitute a form of illegal gambling. “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” a state prosecutor argued in the Mathis trial.

“If it walks like a duck…..”

Mathis’ conviction is the first major victory for prosecutors stemming from a multi-year, multi-state, multi-agency investigation into the storefront casinos, nicknamed “Reveal the Deal.”  Over the weekend, Florida law enforcement officials celebrated the verdict.

“The verdict finding Kelly Mathis guilty should send a strong message that those involved in running this illegal gambling scheme under the façade of a charitable organization to help veterans will be held accountable,” Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, said in a statement.

Mathis, who is out on bond awaits sentencing and now faces the possibility of a lengthy period in prison. After the verdict, he told reporters that he would appeal and that he was “Shocked” at the verdict.

Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General

In the wake of Mathis’ arrest along with 56 other defendants of the “Reveal the Deal,” operation—most of the internet sweepstakes cafes around the state shut down. In recent months however, the businesses have slowly started to reopen around the Sunshine State.

Officials are hoping that Mathis’ conviction will reverse the trend. As prosecutor Nick Cox told the Associated Press on Friday, “it’s kind of hard to ignore a verdict like this.”

Closing Arguments Heard In Mathis Sweepstakes Trial

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Prosecutors May Have Not Known The Difference Between a Sweepstakes and Gambling Device

SANFORD, Fla.  – According to the prosecution, the defendant helped build a network of mini-casinos throughout Florida and called it  a veterans’ charity and should be convicted of more than 100 criminal counts, including racketeering and running a lottery.kmathis

While giving closing  arguments, prosecutor Lisa Acharekar also asked jurors to convict Kelly Mathis of conspiracy and possessing slot machines. The arrests of Mathis and more than 50 other defendants led to the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor earlier this year and a ban on all Internet cafes in Florida.

Mathis determined where the Internet cafes run should be located and made other key decisions for the group, Acharekar said.”This case is about the law. It’s nothing more than that,” Acharekar said. “The defendant, with the activities he participated in, broke the law.”

Mathis is accused of multiple crimes including money laundering

Mathis has said he is an attorney for the charity, giving legal advice, and that the Internet cafes were legal until the Legislature banned them this year. (See HB-155) His attorneys have said Mathis never controlled any part of Allied Veterans of the World and even if he did, it was a legal.

Mitch Stone, defense attorney,  told jurors that prosecutors had misinterpreted what was a gaming promotion and what was a gambling act and labeled it as gambling. The Internet cafes offered high-tech sweepstakes promotions and the law hadn’t yet caught up with technology by the time of Mathis’ arrest last March, he said. The internet sweepstakes café business model is common through-out the nation. A statement that was somewhat supported by the states inability to produce an expert witness describing the difference.

“This case is based on the state’s view of blurry evidence,” Stone said. “They haven’t proven it’s gambling, number one, and they haven’t proven that Mr. Mathis was a part of the organization, number two.”

prize-chance-consideration

Thus far, Mathis is the only one of 56 defendants to go to trial in a case. About the time the arrests were announced, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said she would step down because her public relations firm once represented Allied Veterans. She was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said Mathis and his associates built a $300 million gambling operation by claiming the stores were businesses where customers could buy Internet time, when actually most customers played slot machine games on computers and didn’t use the Internet, although some of the games were on the internet. Much like buying food at McDoanld’smonopoly and getting free entries into the Monopoly sweepstakes. The theory is, that the purchase was for the product and the entry was given free to the customer.

Prosecutors have stated that Mathis and his attorney firm made $6 million from the operation over five years.

“The defendant was doing pretty good by Allied Veterans of the World,” Acharekar said.

The prosecution nor the defense  called  witnesses of Mathis’ key co-defendants who reached deals with prosecutors: former Allied Veterans of the World leaders Johnny Duncan, Jerry Bass, as well as Chase Burns, who operated a company that made software for computers at the dozens of Allied Veterans centers around Florida.

Defense attorneys also didn’t call some of the state’s top politicians – such as Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi – even though theyregulate banner were listed as potential witnesses. The judge in the case limited testimony from witnesses who could talk about efforts by local governments and the state Legislature to regulate the Internet cafes. A move that was criticized by many  involved in the case.

Top Chief Legal Officer Said Internet Cafes Were Legal

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SANFORD, FLORIDA — On Wednesday, in front of a packed courtroom, Jacksonville’s retired deputy general counsel testified that the internet sweepstakes games in the Allied Veterans of the World Internet cafes were legal.florida seal

Steve Rohan testified under oath that he met with Allied’s attorney, Kelly Mathis, several times in 2007 to discuss the city’s ordinances that would come into play with Allied Veterans’ operations.

Mathis is on trial in Sanford, where he faces more than 100 charges of racketeering, possession of a slot machine and conducting a lottery. The judge dismissed over 4 dozen of the money laundering charges after the prosecution rested its case Tuesday.

Rohan and a former assistant state attorney in Volusia County both testified under oath that they believed Mathis was proposing a legal operation for the Allied Veterans centers.

“That was my opinion,” Rohan testified Wednesday. “We would not be advocating for a business that was in violation of state law.”

Rohan said Wednesday Mathis was open about setting up the sweepstakes games, which resembled gambling but did not fit the description that the state had defined.

Customers of the cafes sign a form that says they were purchasing Internet time. Sweepstakes entries were included for free. A business model almost identical to McDonalds Monopoly game.

“The (sweepstakes) exception Mr. Mathis proposed, while people might not like it, was a legitimate exception,” said Rohan.

Mathis told Rohan that a percentage of proceeds were going to a veterans’ charity. Eventually, poker rooms and local dog tracks wanted an ordinance to prohibit sweepstakes parlors in the city, which were run by several companies.

“Neither the state attorney nor the sheriff were trying to cease their operations,” Rohan said. The public, however, wanted the Internet cafes to remain open. “People spoke at our City Council meeting and demanded the ability to go to them,” Rohan said.

Mitch Stone, Mathis’ defense attorney, showed jurors a document from the state Department of Agriculture that said legal sweepstakes games in Florida must resemble the McDonald’s Monopoly game, where a ticket that might win a prize, is given away with a purchase.

Allied Veterans gave customers an electronic “scratch-off” ticket when they bought Internet time, and the players could only be revealed on a computer on the inside the cyber sweepstakes cafe.

Several prosecution witnesses, customers of the cafes said they thought they were gambling and seemed confused to hear in court that they were simply learning from the computer whether their tickets were winners.

“The use of the computer was a fun way to find out whether you won or lost,” said Daniel Leising, a former assistant state attorney in Volusia County describing the ‘entertaining display’.

Leising said he met with Mathis and found that the Allied Veterans Business Model followed state law.

Jacksonville attorney Ed Akel said that while Mathis was listed as the registered agent for Allied Veterans, that did not make him a partner or give him a business interest in the company that took in $300 million as a veterans’ charity, while giving only 2 percent, or $6 million, to veterans – the same amount Mathis made in legal fees.

The prosecution ended their case Monday, almost 3 weeks shy of the four-week estimate.

The defense has a list of nearly 400 witnesses to choose from and will present at least six witnesses today, Stone said.

 

Sweepstakes Trial Dismissed ? The Clock Tics

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SANFORD, Fla. — Internet Sweepstakes Attorney for a Florida lawyer have requested a judge to throw out charges that claim that their client helped build a $300 million gambling operation.ReelDeal

Attorneys for Kelly Mathis asked Judge Kenneth Lester to throw out the case on Tuesday morning, claiming prosecutors ‘did not whatsoever’ prove the Jacksonville lawyer is guilty of any crime, let alone being a mastermind of a $300 million gambling ring.

Mathis’ lawyers say he never controlled, owned or managed any of the dozens of  Internet sweepstales cafes in Florida. They say that, even if he did, the centers were offering sweepstakes, not gambling.The State’s star ‘expert’ witness was not called to distinguish the difference between a sweepstakes machine and a slot machine in accordance with federal law.

Mathis claims he was acting only as an attorney, giving legal advice, and nothing else.

Law Enforcement Taking A Wait And See Approach On New Gaming Software

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JACKSONVILLE, Fl. -  Internet cafes in Jacksonville are filling back up despite a state law supposedly banning  them.

sweepsDESK2

Pre-Reveal Sweepstakes Players Play At Local Cafe

Pete’s Retreat Cyber Cafe on Normandy Boulevard on the Westside was was the first known to reopen introducing a new gaming software that is rumored to not violate the text of the new law.

Vegas Fun Zone on Blanding Boulevard is also open for business like Pete’s Retreat. The family-owned business is watching what’s happening at Pete’s to see if its competitor is allowed to stay open using the pre-reveal software sweepstakes.

“We are planning on reopening,” said Michelle Rager, of Vegas Fun Zone. “Our attorneys have been working on the new software. We have everything in place. We are trying to get the city to answer our questions. We are trying to get the sheriff to answer our questions. Nobody knows.”

Dozens of cafes across the state have called and said they too plan to reopen soon because they are using the new software in the machines and say it follows state guidelines for sweepstakes rules.

Three and half months ago, the state Legislature passed a law that put the Internet cafes out of business. State Sen. John Thrasher was one of the driving forces.

He said the reopenings are something lawmakers will take up again in the next session.

“If there are still some loopholes out there, we are going to find them and again, I remind you, Jim, we are going to take a very comprehensive look next year at gaming generally in the state of Florida, and this will be a part of that,” Thrasher said.

Right now, the unpopular Thrasher said there are agencies who should be looking into what’s happening with the cafes that are reopening but as of end of August no agency   seems to care too much as to what is going on.

So who regulates the Internet cafes since the new law passed? All of the following agencies said not them: the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Attorney General Office, the state attorney’s office, and the city of Jacksonville.

State’s Star Witness In Sweepstakes Not An Expert

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Florida’s racketeering case against the Allied Veterans of the World to test in a month.

Pre-Reveal Sweepstakes

One defense lawyer sees the recent withdrawal of the state’s single gambling professional as a cause for optimism.

Jacksonville-based Allied Veterans of the World ran dozens of internet cafes throughout the state, up until the day federal and state investigators shut 49 of them for affirmed unlawful gambling.
Defense attorney Curtis Fallgatter represents four of the 57 people who were rounded up and charged with racketeering and money laundering. Fallgatter’s effort to force Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to indicate for the protection failed last week when a Seminole County judge ruled against him.
He appears to have convinced prosecutors that their gambling specialist had not been certified to affirm, nonetheless, because, he says, the state has removed him from their witness checklist.
“In reality, they’ve told the judge and all of us that anything that was in the arrest sworn statements should be stricken as well. So they have actually walked away from him totally,” pointed out Fallgatter.
“They have not one other expert, he’s the only one they had. So, you know, they may have some theories about how they proceed and we’re hanging around to learn what they think they can do to prosecute a case without a professional.”.
Fallgatter intends to file a motion to disregard the case on Monday.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution refused WJCT’s request to discuss the case, saying it would be unacceptable. The trial is arranged to begin September 16th.

http://floridasweepstakescafe.com/

‘BanBuster Games” Launches Pre Reveal in Florida Reopens Dozens Of Cafes Across State

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New Games Owned By Indian Tribe In Florida

Jacksonville, Fl — As uncertainty grows more patrons are returning to internet sweepstakes parlors despite a state law banning a the old type of game.

Pete’s Retreat Cyber Cafe on Normandy Boulevard on the Westside was pretty packed Tuesday with people compared to Monday night when it had zero people.

Pre-Reveal Sweepstakes Launches in Florida

Another sweepstakes café, on Blanding blvd,  is open but is choosing not to hand out cash prizes until they get new software installed on their computers called “Pre Reveal” that they claim does not violate the law.

“We are planning on reopening,” said Michelle Rager, of Vegas Fun Zone. “Our attorneys have been working on the new software. We have everything in place. We are trying to get the city to answer our questions. We are trying to get the sheriff to answer our questions. Nobody knows.”

Several others in the Jacksonville area have called and said they also plan to reopen because they are using the “Banbuster Games Software” on their computers and say it follows state guidelines for sweepstakes rules.

Three and half months ago, the state Legislature passed a law that put the Internet cafes out of business. State Sen. John Thrasher was one of the driving forces.

He said the re-openings are something lawmakers will take up again in the next session.

“If there are still some loopholes out there, we are going to find them and again, I remind you, Jim, we are going to take a very comprehensive look next year at gaming generally in the state of Florida, and this will be a part of that,” Thrasher said.

Right now, Thrasher said there are agencies who should be looking into what’s happening with the cafes that are reopening.

Who regulates the Internet cafes since the new law passed?

All of the following agencies said they DO NOT: the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Attorney General Office, the state attorney’s office, and the city of Jacksonville.

Thrasher believes the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office should be the agency who takes the lead.

“Maybe they are the place to look at and remind them we have a new law on the books,” Thrasher said. “They ought to have their legal folks take a look at it and then make a determination if they are within the law or not.”

There are several pending court cases that could throw out the new law on the basis of its too broad and overbearing, with one case making the claim that the law bans smartphones and computers thru-out the state.

After Sweepstakes Banned In Florida, Politicians Look At VLTs

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A couple of weeks ago, a guy possibly in his mid- to late-60s peered in the window of a now-closed Internet cafe in Suntree, FloridA..

1-877-WIN_CAFE Sweepstakes Players

He jerked the door a couple times, straining as god looked once again through the window, before getting into his auto and driving off.

Clearly, he wasn’t satisfied. And it would be a good estimate god had not heard that Gov. Rick Scott had rapidly shut down the Internet cafes, as well as the grownup games.

The guy wasn’t alone.

Likewise more than a little miffed concerning the closings of the Internet cafes and elderly galleries– great euphemisms for gaming houses– was Ralph Perrone Sr. of Perrone Properties on Merritt Island. In short order, Perrone lost 6 renters in buildings he owns and thousands of dollars each month in lease payments.

Three of his tenants turned their keys in immediately after Scott signed the legislation; 2 more did so last week. He hasn’t heard yet from the 6th, but god’s not holding out hope the renter is visiting return with a Plan B and find an additional usage for the residential property.

“It’s not visiting be effortless to locate tenants for these spots,” said Perrone, who, nonetheless, has a few nibbles on a few his homes.

Much more pleased with Scott’s action was Pat Biddix, the president and general manager of Melbourne Greyhound Park. Biddix is awaiting the green light to construct a $30 million to $50 million gambling casino like what’s offered at tracks in Broward and Dade regions.

The Melbourne center, with a bistro and amusement location, would certainly be on 200 acres between Eau Gallie Boulevard and Sarno Road, simply a brief drive where Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos bus motorists now on a regular basis whisk location gamblers to Tampa.

Biddix is a charming, though matter-of-fact guy. So when I asked him last week if god smiled with Scott’s activity to shut down the games and Internet cafe, god offered the anticipated answer.

“Yes! Heavens yes!” Biddix replied.

“Both the Internet cafes and the arcades with fixed machines had to be put out of business,” Biddix stated. “First of all, they were absolutely uncontrolled and there was no protection for the patrons whatsoever. And the businesses just weren’t taxed whatsoever shape or form. No city, no region and certainly not the state got any kind of tax income from them.

http://floridasweepstakescafe.com/

VLT’s Making Big Moves In Florida

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Harry Simmes had not been surprised there would certainly be a rash of Ocala Internet cafe closings after Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday signed a prohibition against the businesses. Simmes merely didn’t believe it would certainly happen

1-877-WIN-CAFE Sweepstakes Player

this promptly.

A minimum of fifty percent of the Internet cafes in Ocala were shut Thursday, less than 24 hrs after Scott signed the hurried legislation that was aspired to finish what many critics called storefront casinos.

“My God, we practically stayed in this place,” said the 76-year-old Simmes, standing near the Palms Internet Cafe doorway at Friendship Shopping Plaza on State Road 200. “I truly enjoyed it.”.

Inside, the computers continued to be where they were the day previously, however the business was dark and a single piece of paper along with the word “Closed” composed and videotaped to the glass front doorway. Nobody seemed within.

Simmes occasionally went to the cafe four or five times a week. A lot more lately, possibly two or 3 times weekly.

“We would certainly sit there for half a hr and invest $20 and leave again. I have a lot of sensations concerning (the closing),” pointed out the Saddle Oak resident.

“Now I’m going to have to locate something else to do. Possibly Saddle Oak bingo … and I think we’ll see a lot larger group now,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said his office was still figuring out how you can deal with lawbreakers if some stores continue to be open. It’s feasible businessmen may be given warnings that they are damaging the law prior to apprehensions are made.

Ridgway said his workplace teams up with 30 different law enforcement companies, several of which have actually called him about exactly what to do if they find Internet cafes still working.

“I tell them, ‘Hold on a minute,’” he stated.

A few of the Internet cafes may be closing so soon due to the fact that the businesses that supplied their computer hosting servers– which ran the slot machine-like computers– appear to be closing down those server links, Ridgway stated.

“So a whole lot will wither and vanish by themselves due to the fact that they’ve lost their web servers. The remainder we’ll have to handle as they turn up,” Ridgway pointed out.

“If there’s a violation of the law, we are prosecute,” he claimed, however included that his assistance to police force is not “to go out there and seek these businesses.”.

Ridgway pointed out one of the complications was that the businesses were predominately cash industries, which made them ready for criminal task.

For the past couple of years the cafes have navigated Florida’s gambling laws by calling exactly what they offer to clients “sweepstakes”– just like obtaining a Monopoly scratch-off card at McDonald’s when you buy a burger.

The Internet cafe industry claimed its clients were not gambling. The cafe sells its customers time on the web and as part of the sale, consumers are offered a ticket. The ticket provides the consumer a chance to succeed any sort of number of games that show up on the computer screens.

The software for the games looks almost identical to slot machine games, and consumers have the chance to succeed money or coupon rewards.

In late 2010, the State Attorney’s Office went down a criminal case against an owner and supervisor of an Internet cafe in Ocala, claiming the company needed much more explanation on the condition’s gambling law.

Before that, a circuit judge discarded a similar case versus the business owner for absence of evidence.

The new law basically prohibits the computers that the Internet cafes utilize, Ridgway pointed out, placing an end to any kind of ambiguity in the law.

http://floridasweepstakescafe.com/