Internet gambling operators alleged to be operating in the West Volusia and DeLand counties in South Daytona could be receiving some official attention in the near future, according to reports this week in the local newspaper the DeLand Deltona Beacon.
Apparently DeLand Police Chief Ed Overman and Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson are watching developments closely amid claims that online gambling operations have multiplied over the last year.
Apparently the operators are hoping to stay out of trouble by selling cards for Internet time or phone time, rather than tokens for gambling. With the cards come "free" points for playing games on Internet terminals, exploiting a free sweepstakes loophole to circumvent the law. As in a sweepstakes promotion, the number of prizes and their payouts are predetermined.
The Beacon reports that the sweepstakes argument is rejected by local law enforcement officers, who have been "champing at the bit" to go after gaming rooms. For now, law officials are waiting on the results of a case in Escambia County. There, in September, the sheriff secured a warrant and seized gaming terminals at a venue, charging the operators with violating gambling laws.
Following his example, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and the South Daytona Police Department tried to get their own warrants to go after gaming-room operators here, but were told by the State Attorney's Office there was insufficient cause, and the outcome of the Escambia County trial must be awaited.
South Daytona Police Department Chief William Hall, who had previously failed to secure a warrant, told the newspaper that machines offer games that look much like casino games, such as slots, or picking numbers, Lotto-style. The operators acquire a permit to run an Internet cafe, and put gaming terminals in the shop, Hall said.
Further afield, Orange City is trying its own approach, reports the Beacon. An operator there received a permit to operate an Internet cafe, and put in a gaming operation. "We took it to code enforcement, because of zoning. Their application said their primary business was retail sales. We were able to prove to the special master that wasn't the case," Orange City Police Chief Jeffrey Baskoff said. The business has six months to come into compliance with the zoning rules or submit a new application.
Lake Helen Police Chief Keith Chester said there are no Internet gaming rooms in his city, and he doesn't want them or any form of gambling.
On the other side of the argument, the operators have spoken out, too. "What it is, what we're selling, is Internet time. You can surf the net, play the games," Frank Sensoplano said. It's sweepstakes, not selling games, he emphasised to the Beacon.
A slot machine with a pull-down arm would be illegal, Sensoplano said, but these machines operate differently, and are under a bond from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He pointed out that the State Attorney's Office has yet to take action against Internet gaming rooms