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Florida Grand Jury Rips Gambling Cafes

Two weeks after police raids shut down internet cafes that were purported to engage in gambling, the county's grand jury this week confirmed the decision.

Calling the internet cafes unlawful, a disgrace and a public nuisance, the Jackson County grand jury opined that the four gambling establishments were rightfully shut down. The internet cafe's lawyers argued that the businesses were operating in conjunction with Florida's current laws regarding sweepstakes, which are similar to games found at many drive through restaurants.

Under Florida law, a business that offers a prize that is valued more than $5,000 must be registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. None of the four internet cafes in Jackson County were registered with the department, according to the grand jury.

State Attorney Glenn Hess issued comments to local television station WJHG about the grand jury's decision saying, "It's clear the people of Jackson County will not sit still for a continued influx of these internet casinos. They don't appreciate gambling there."

In reference to the claims that the businesses were running in accordance with sweepstakes rules, Hess said, "We now have the evidence to show it was a sham, it was a joke. They weren't selling anything that anyone wanted. They were just running a gambling house."

With the cafes now shut down, Mr. Hess says that other law enforcement agencies throughout the state are contacting him to help combat the sweepstakes cafes in their areas. Hess said, "I've had a number of calls from law enforcement and reporters in different parts of the state where they're fighting the same battle and they've asked for copies (of the grand jury's report)."

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