Florida Keys News
Saturday, June 29, 2013
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Police close gambling site

Police shuttered an online gaming parlor, seizing thousands in cash, in raids Thursday night under a new state law banning such gambling cafes.

Hotspot Bingo on Kennedy Drive was shut down and manager William Bennett, 62, and clerk Larry Vardaman, 65, given notices to appear in court. Officers also reportedly confiscated $6,500.

The violation only calls for a ticket, not an arrest, said Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel.

Crean said the case is under investigation.

Police raided two other places: the Fraternal Order of the Oriole, 106 Simonton St., where all such machines were found unplugged; and Truman Adult Book Video, 92 Truman Ave., where no machines were found, Crean said.

"We have warned people that the new law is in effect and we've asked nicely, so please remove these machines if you have them at your business," Vogel said Friday. "We have been trying to educate the public on this issue for weeks."

Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 155, which outlaws online gambling machines, on April 10.

In March, federal and state officials shuttered Internet cafes run by the purported charity Allied Veterans of the World after a massive investigation.

In the Florida Keys, venues under Gulf Internet Services -- part of the Allied Veterans network -- in Tavernier, Marathon and Stock Island were among 51 Internet sweepstakes cafes shut down statewide.

Authorities arrested nearly 60 people in connection with Allied Veterans, accusing them of racketeering and conspiracy in what they called a $300 million fraud scheme.

That probe led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who once worked as a consultant for Allied Vets. She said she resigned to avoid becoming a distraction to the governor.

Stick Stein Sports Rock Cafe owner Steve DeGrave cited the new law -- and his subsequent removal of gaming machines at the 38-year-old New Town bar -- as partly why he was closing the business, which was shuttered Friday.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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