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Sweepstakes Businesses Sent Cease and Desist Notices in Lake City

According to a press release today from Lake City Manager Wendell Johnson, in an email from Mike Lee, Public Information Officer, the City of Lake City is rescinding business licenses to certain internet cafes.

The release stated that on Tuesday, August 8, 2017, the City of Lake City Growth Management Department sent letters to 12 Internet Café “Sweepstakes” businesses located within the city limits. This notice informed them that business licenses issued by the City are contingent upon lawful operation of said businesses, and that the City has the right to rescind or revoke licenses for businesses that violate State Law, City or County Ordinances, or Code / Zoning Rules and Regulations.

The Internet Café businesses receiving letters all submitted business license applications affirming their businesses were compliant with all laws and rules. Chapter 849 (“Gambling”) of the Florida State Statutes addresses both illegal gambling/slot machines as well as “sweepstakes” (officially referred to as “Game Promotions.”) While many Internet Cafes indicate that their operations are “sweepstakes” rather than gambling, even Sweepstakes must be held “in connection with and incidental to the sale of consumer products or services.”

“Sweepstakes are designed to be something a business uses to promote another product, not as the product itself. Businesses who conduct sweepstakes as a primary means of revenue are not compliant with this statute,” said Lake City Growth Management Director Rod Hoefert. “While this differentiation might not result in criminal prosecution, the City of Lake City is not obligated to permit these businesses to operate.”

The letter, served to the twelve businesses listed below, stated “All business shall cease and no further business activity of this kind shall occur at the above location.” Businesses were given a ten-day window to discontinue operation.

According to Code Enforcement Officials, after the 10 days, signs will be placed on the doors of any such businesses still in operation indicating the business is not licensed. Continued operation could lead to civil fines and potential criminal prosecution.

Hoefert, the newly appointed Building Official for Lake City, came from the City of Gainesville where such businesses are already prohibited. “If these businesses ignore our order, they’ll begin to accumulate daily fines until they end up before the City Magistrate. At that point, the property owner could be held liable, and if needed, Law Enforcement could be called in to assist.”

The following businesses received Cease and Desist Notice Letters:
Casa Blanca – 543 SW Main Blvd
Cyber Center – 1037 W US Hwy 90 and 1101 W US Hwy 90
Fish Arcade – 1472 W US Hwy 90*
Fun Time Arcade – 130 NW Railroad St
Fun Zone – 2941 W US Hwy 90
Happy Times by Leslie – 894 SW Main Blvd
Golden Kave – 642 S Marion Ave*
Lucky Duck – 2938 W US Hwy 90
Lucky Cyber Café – 134 SW Florida Gateway Blvd
Slots-a-Fun – 366 SW Knox St
Cyber Center – 1445 SW Main Blvd
The Horseshoe – 1023 E Duval St*

*Fish Arcade was the location of robberies on 4/27/17 and 7/21/17
*Golden Kave was the location of a robbery on 5/3/17
*The Horseshoe was the location of a robbery on 3/19/17