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Lake County plans to regulate internet cafes; Marion County outlaws their machines

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Marion County Commissioner Craig Curry said he sided with the sheriff on the issue of internet cafes. Image: Marion County video

Lake County will consider an ordinance later this month to license and regulate internet cafes.

But commissioners in neighboring Marion County chose Tuesday not to regulate them, but to outlaw the simulated gambling devices they use.

In Marion, the sheriff may have gotten the final say in a years-long battle against internet cafes.

His lawyer Timothy McCourt told the commission they are, quote, “breeding grounds for crime.”

Since the last meeting, he said, an armed man robbed yet another one.

“He pointed a firearm at the clerk, who I’m told by our detectives was pregnant, also pointed a firearm at a 9-year-old child, who is the child of the clerk,” McCourt said. “And … that’s what we have going on at these places.”

Lawyers for the game rooms argued for regulation, not prohibition. And several county residents, like Dunnellon’s Sherri Matherly, pleaded the case.

“They’re a safe place,” she said, “and a good place for us as older people to fellowship.”

The ban, which passed unanimously, affects about 39 game rooms outside of city limits.

It includes civil fines and criminal penalties.

Lake County, on the other hand, is going to regulate the 22 or so internet cafes in its jurisdiction. It will require a permit with an annual renewal. It will have rules such as background checks, transparency on the gaming odds and security at night.

The county may also limit the number of new internet cafes.

Commissioners will consider that ordinance later this month.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.