Lawsuit seeks to legitimize internet cafes that offer “simulated gambling”

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Today, a Florida appeals court will listen to arguments arising from a lawsuit filed by an operator of internet cafes. The lawsuit seeks to obtain a definitive ruling that the cafes do not violate Florida’s gambling laws. The lawsuit is a response to action by four Florida counties in which property was seized and at least one worker was arrested. The counties believed that the cafes offered services that were essentially slot machines.

The litigation contends that the cafes do not offer illegal gambling, but instead that they offer internet access which can be used to engage in legal sweepstakes games. The café operators say that the sweepstakes are similar to other business sweepstakes, like opening a soda bottle to see if there is an instant prize under the cap.

This lawsuit had initially been dismissed because it was filed against the state attorney general and other state level authorities rather than the county agencies which actually took the enforcement actions that are being questioned. Today, the appeals court will hear arguments about whether the lawsuit should be revived.

While the operators of the cafes seek to use this lawsuit to determine that their activities are not in violation of state gambling laws, the state has attempted to sidestep this issue completely and focus on their belief that they had not taken any direct action against the cafes and that they are not therefore the correct party against whom to pursue the lawsuit.
It is more than understandable that a business that has been accused of illegal activities would desire clarification to establish that they are providing legal services. In this case, even if the court ultimately determines that the activities are legal, it may not be the final word on the legality of the purported ‘simulated gambling’ at internet cafes. There are currently at least two proposals in the state legislature that would specifically address the legality of the services offered by the cafes.

Source: The News Press “Appeals court set to hear Internet cafe violation case,” Nov. 14, 2011