Sweepstakes cafes banned
By Jessica J. Saggio | January 05, 2011
Despite a new trend throughout the state of Florida, Internet sweepstakes cafes will not come to Oviedo after the city council passed a ban on their establishment within city borders.
With more than 350 known gaming cafes in the state of Florida, the new sector of Internet cafes allows visitors to surf the web while participating in sweepstakes contests.
Participants pay a fee for web browsing but are also given credits to play sweepstakes games on the computer. If a person wins while playing a game, they are given a cash prize.
The system, which is protected under the state's gaming laws, is believed to be a mask for what city officials believe to be illegal gambling.
"The wording could suggest that it's not actually gambling, but when you look at it, it most definitely is gambling," said Oviedo Councilwoman Cindy Drago. "In the long run, it's not good for our community."
Florida statutes state that " 'Game promotion' means, but is not limited to, a contest, game of chance, or gift enterprise, conducted within or throughout the state and other states in connection with the sale of consumer products or services, and in which the elements of chance and prize are present." Therefore, cafes cannot charge customers to play the games and they have to be based 100 percent on chance. Internet cafes are charging for Internet time, not gaming, thus making it legal.
However, city officials are still convinced that there is an element of wrongdoing that can only hurt the city's well-being. Oviedo Councilman Stephen Schenck says he believes the cafes are completely deceptive.
"They are almost totally rigged against the person," Schenck said. "It's a two-part problem. One is that it's gambling in reality, and the other is that it really is a scam to those who are playing."
Law states that game promotion must allow all participants an equal chance in winning, which is how McDonald's Monopoly Sweepstakes and Burger King's Burger Shot Sweepstakes continue to exist.
Mayor Dominic Persampiere said the city's action was in direct response to county-wide efforts to get rid of these gaming establishments.
The city of Oviedo is not home to any of these cafes, but the new resolution will put a ban into effect for any future businesses.
"We do not have any in the city; we're just looking to be proactive," said Persampiere. "But we know that once they're in, it's harder to get them out."
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