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Cape Coral internet cafe owner speaks out on looming ban

Apr. 4, 2013
Internet cafe sign /

Cyber Sweepstakes in Cape Coral is on life support.

The Florida Senate today voted 36-4 to ban electronic gaming devices it and other Internet cafes and strip mall parlors use. It will become law if Gov. Rick Scott signs it.

"If my system gets outlawed, then I'll close the doors and lay off my (six) employees," said Michael Strawbridge, Cyber Sweepstakes' owner.

But he doesn't think it's fair. The bill was sparked by an ongoing racketeering investigation of Allied Veterans of the World charity that is accused of running a $290 million illegal gambling business that directed most of the proceeds into its owners’ pockets.

“This is 100 percent politics,” said Strawbridge, adding he believes legislators have received heavy contributions from Indian casinos and dog tracks.

Strawbridge said his business has nothing to do with gambling. Any person who walks in can get up to 100 free entries to play games. You get more free entries when you buy a phone card.

“My business is that of a retailer," he said. "Not one customer wagers any of their money to have a chance to win money on these machines."

Legislative update

A bill prohibiting the games that occur at Internet Cafes, sparked by an on-going racketeering investigation, is headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

Over the objections of several South Florida lawmakers, many fighting for senior arcades that they fear will be caught in the net of the ban, the Florida Senate voted 36-4 on Thursday to approve a bill that prohibits the use of the electronic games that Internet cafes and other strip center parlors depend upon for revenue.

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