Commission meeting

County commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 to levy a non-ad valorem special assessment for enhanced Medicaid payments for local services.

 

People planning on opening an internet café in Citrus County might want to think twice.

County commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to crack down on café operators by directing the county attorney to draft an ordinance with more severe fines and longer jail time.

The new ordinance allows deputies to fine operators per machine. So if a café had 30 games, the penalty would be a $15,000 fine and five years in jail. A misdemeanor carried a 60-day jail term or $500 fine.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, who called for the ordinance, said he wanted to stop such places from opening. Period. 

State legislators in 2019 reduced the penalty for illegal activities at an internet café from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

That same year, the Citrus County’s Sheriff’s Office arrested several people at at least two such cafés when they found illegal gambling and drug activity.

“We’re not talking about minor crimes either,” Lt. Craig Callahan told commissioners at the meeting.

Callahan ticked off several serious crimes occurring at the cafés, including strong-arm robbery and gun violence.

Callahan said the sheriff's office had identified one internet café in Lecanto but that has been dealt with.

Right now, there are none and he wants to keep it that way.

The ordinance will be patterned after Marion County, which had 48 internet cafés in February. Within a week of passing the ordinance, all 48 were shut down, Callahan said.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.