I am encouraged by the recent events and actions by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other national, state and local law enforcement agencies in connection with charges of racketeering and money laundering against Allied Veterans of the World's illegal gambling activities in connection with what are commonly known as "Internet Sweepstakes Cafes."
Recently, I led the initiative to rid Hillsborough County of internet gambling. With majority support from my fellow board members, we were successful in banning these simulated gambling devices which function much like slot machines and were at the heart of a quickly spreading form of this insidious "business."
Sweepstakes cafes typically sold phone cards or Internet access to people who then logged into a computer at the business to play a slot machine-style game and to find out if they won money.
Before we passed the ban in Hillsborough County, there were more than 50 locations. A map created by the Hillsborough Sheriff's office, identified many of these businesses in unincorporated Hillsborough and many more cafes popped up within a few days of publication of the map. Last year we amended the ordinance to cover café businesses that were attempting to skirt the law. Since then, nearly all of them have closed their doors.
Moving forward, I will continue to follow these matters closely as well as make every effort to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens and veterans in Hillsborough County are protected from exploitation by these predatory, unregulated and untaxed organizations.
We trust that actions taken by local, state and federal agents will make our county a safe and healthy place for our children and families to live, work and play.