Who's in charge of regulating internet cafes?

Businesses remain open despite city raids, arrests

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After prosecutors decided not to pursue charges in the state's largest internet cafe gambling raid, News4Jax wondered who is now keeping an eye on the businesses that were once at the center of statewide investigations.

Since the 2013 raids of the Allied Veterans of the World cafes that led to 57 arrests, the city has shut down several similar businesses in other raids, but some of those have reopened and are operating now with no issues.

The city used to regulate the cafes and require special permits and inspections for them to operate, but the city explained Friday that it's no longer regulating the businesses and it's up to either police or state officials to handle any concerns about the cafes.

None of the owners or managers wanted to comment Friday on their businesses.

A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the department is aware that several of the cafes that have been under scrutiny have reopened, but JSO couldn't discuss any active investigations related to the businesses. The department is currently only responding to complaints about the businesses, the spokesperson said.

The Allied Veterans case prompted changes in Florida law regulating internet gaming, but the cafes are still able to operate.

The man the state once called the mastermind of a the $300 million gambling ring told News4Jax on Thursday that seeing the cafes still operating makes him question the motivation for the investigation into his client four years ago.

“It's frustrating,” attorney Kelly Mathis said. “It makes me wonder exactly what the objective was at the beginning and why in four years they haven't done anything about that. For some reason, my clients and I were singled out.”

Mathis was the only one of the 57 people arrested to go to trial in the 2013 case, but his convictions were overturned last year and the state will not retry him.

News4Jax has made several calls to the state attorney general's office, which handled many of the internet cafe investigations, to find out who is regulating the cafes and why they are still allowed to operate, but we have not heard back yet.

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