Branford City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday banning the operation of any facilities that allow any type of online gambling, including online slot machines, sports betting and online casinos. No public comment or objection was made during the meeting. This follows a ban on online slot machines in Marion County earlier this month.
Ken Saunders, president of Branford City Council, said there is no place in town for activities like internet cafes because they are so small. The city is just over a mile radius. He also said the city has churches and residential areas like public parks, playgrounds, and schools.
Most cities have a guarded zone around these facilities, but because of Branford's size, there is nowhere to set up a zone for internet cafés where online gambling and sports betting is possible, he said.
The ordinance states: "The City Council believes it is necessary to ban the operation of these facilities for the health, safety, morality and well-being of Branford Township."
Donna Hardin, Branford Town Clerk for over 15 years, said these types of facilities are not something the town council wants within the parish limits.
"Our town is so small that we don't really have a place for it," said Hardin.
She said it wasn't a problem in town – there aren't any internet cafes in Branford at the moment – and the city council wants to keep it that way.
According to the regulation, the ban is valid for 12 months with an automatic extension of 6 months. The automatic renewal could be reduced or stopped by the Council.
Hardin said during the ban the council will be able to determine if there have been any problems with online gambling in the city and assess whether further action should be taken.
She said this vote is a precautionary measure by the council to ensure Branford does not suffer any crime or illegal activity that may be associated with these facilities.
Marion County's unanimous vote on February 2 to ban online slot machines in internet cafes followed a series of robberies against such establishments in the county.
At the meeting, 23 people spoke out against the regulation banning online slot machines, which are a big business for internet cafes. There are currently just under 40 internet cafes in Marion County.
Internet cafes, also known as adult convenience casinos or arcades, offer online games that, according to Marc Dunbar and Daniel Russell, who specialize in gaming law, are almost identical to slot machines in casinos.
There are more types of gambling in Florida than any other state in the United States, according to Dunbar and Russell.
While the city council has no plans to see facilities like internet cafes in Branford, Saunders said other businesses are being built that will please citizens and the community:
"Our city is growing, but they are companies that anyone can use."