90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Marion County Sheriff’s Office tries a simpler, cheaper way to shut down internet cafes

Play Audio

Timothy McCourt, staff attorney for the Marion County Sheriff's Office, presented a case for outlawing "simulated gambling devices" as a way to shut down internet cafes, which he says create an environment for crime. Image: Marion County video

For years, law enforcement in Marion County has tried to clamp down on internet cafes on the grounds that they involve illegal gambling.

Now, as WMFE’s Joe Byrnes reports, the sheriff has found a simpler and cheaper way to shut down the 42 cafes in unincorporated parts of the county.

The sheriff is asking the county to outlaw commercial use of the so called “simulated gambling devices” — the fish tables and on-screen slot machines — found in the cafes.

Sheriff’s Office lawyer Timothy McCourt told county commissioners Tuesday that, even with guards, the internet cafes present an open invitation to violent criminals.

In recently armed robberies, for example, they escaped with 10-thousand to more than 40-thousand dollars.

“It’s a highly lucrative crime if you’re going to commit it. (In) my opinion, these places are effectively poorly guarded banks. And the incentive to rob them is staggering,” McCourt said.

Despite pushback from the businesses, commissioners favor the new ordinance. They plan to take it up again on February 2nd after their lawyer makes a few changes.

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity

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.