Board of County Commissioners
Leon County, Florida

www.leoncountyfl.gov
Agenda Item
Executive Summary


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Title:
Status Report and Request for Further Direction to the County Attorney with Regard to Internet Café Issues

Staff:
Herbert W.A. Thiele, County Attorney


 

Issue Briefing:

This item is a status report and a request for further direction to the County Attorney with regard to the internet café (simulated gambling device) issues.  The County Attorney’s Office has  prepared a draft ordinance prohibiting simulated gambling devices for Board consideration and, if that option is ultimately adopted, Board authorization to schedule a first and only public hearing for March 15, 2011 (Attachment # 1).  

 

Fiscal Impact:

This item has no fiscal impact to the County.

 

Staff Recommendation:

Option #1:        Direct the County Attorney's Office to monitor litigation in Seminole County and status of legislation in the 2011 Florida Legislative Session, and provide status reports as needed.

 


Report and Discussion

 

Background:

A nationwide surge of Internet Cafes or gaming parlors have caused state and local governments to be on the offensive in trying to ascertain whether or not these “cafes” or “gaming parlors” can be construed as gambling.

 

Thus, the Board of County Commission has received a number of concerns or complaints to individual Commissioners over the past couple of months regarding the proliferation of the so-called "Internet Cafés" in Leon County and in the City of Tallahassee.  As you are aware, the County Attorney's Office has been working closely with the State Attorney's Office and the Leon County Sheriff's Office with regard to our review of the activities at these properties for compliance with all of the applicable state statutes and local ordinances, including especially relative to potential illegal gambling activities.

 

While these investigations are ongoing, and in light of the position being taken by the Internet Café industry that they do not constitute a prohibited gambling activity in the manner by which business is conducted on the property, and because we believe that the County Commissioners are concerned with the proliferation of the types of activities, the County Attorney's Office has initiated preparing a potential ordinance for your consideration which would prohibit the use of "simulated gambling devices" on property.  We have attached a draft of such an ordinance for your consideration and direction to the County Attorney's Office as to whether you wish us to pursue this matter further.

 

Seminole County, Florida recently adopted an ordinance attempting to prohibit simulated gaming devices and, upon adoption and enforcement, was served with a Temporary Restraining Order from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, in a suit filed by Allied Veterans of the World, Inc., et al v. Seminole County, Florida, U.S. District Case No. 6:11-cv-155-Orl-28DAB (Attachment # 2).

 

The 2011 Florida Legislature is attempting to address the issue by the filing of House Bill 217 on January 14, 2011 with the House (a companion bill for the Senate [SB576] was filed on January 25, 2011) seeking to prohibit such establishments by creating the “Electronic Machines and Devices for Sweepstakes Prohibited Act” (Attachment # 3 ).

 

In addition, representatives of owners of internet cafes in and around Leon County and the City of Tallahassee forwarded to the County Attorney’s Office a proposed ordinance regulating internet cafes in lieu of prohibition for the Board of County Commissioners’ consideration (Attachment # 4).

 

Consideration will need to be given as to whether or not this ordinance should be treated as a land use regulatory matter or as a regulation which prohibits both future and existing such uses.  In its current format, it is treated as a regulation prohibiting the uses from existing and continuing in operation.

 

Analysis:

The proposed ordinance will prohibit the use of any and all simulated gambling devices in Leon County.

 

Options:

1.         Direct the County Attorney's Office to monitor litigation in Seminole County and status of legislation in the 2011 Florida Legislative Session, and provide status reports as needed.

2.         Direct the County Attorney’s Office to finalize the proposed ordinance and to schedule same for a first and only public hearing on March 15, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.

3.         Direct the County Attorney’s Office to not finalize the proposed ordinance and do not schedule a first and only public hearing.

4.         Board Direction.

 

Recommendation:

Option # 1.

 

Attachments:

1.         Proposed ordinance.

2.         Temporary Restraining Order and Notice of Hearing.

3.         Proposed House Bill 217.

4.         Alternative proposed ordinance.