SPRING HILL (FOX 13) - It's game over for the owners of an internet café engaged in illegal gambling, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators say the business was giving out cash payments to customers for their winnings. Illegal gambling is a problem that officials say is becoming more common.
But customers who frequent Butter’s Place in Spring Hill say it’s the kind of place most people go to for a good time.
“You have older people that come and like to sit and socialize,” said former customer Judy Smith.
Internet cafes offer slot-machine-style games on a computer, but the difference between these places and a real casino is that no money is exchanged - only points that build up.
But once the internet cafe does payout in cash, it becomes illegal gambling and violates state law. It's what Butter's Place is accused of doing, but some who patronized the business disagree with shutting it down.
“If they can have all these things for the men along the whole highway here why can't they have this for the senior citizens,” said former customer Donna Bayshore.
HCSO officials explain the business had been at the center of an undercover operation. They say it's the second time deputies have had to raid and then close down the internet cafe for illegal activity.
“We're not just there to ruin their fun we're there to uphold the law,” said HCSO Sgt. Scott Lamia. “On the inside, it looks like all fun and games but there's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that are illegal money laundering, fraud.”
Over the past several years officials say they've closed around a half dozen businesses for giving illegal payouts.
“They can't give money out they can't even give gift cards out,” said former internet café owner Terry Kasberg.
Kasberg used to own an internet cafe in spring hill and says his business never paid anyone in cash. He thinks the state could do better at making sure illegal shops don’t pop up at all.
“Regulate them, charge a fee, permits and make some money on these things because the seniors love these places,” said Kasberg.