Branford Bans Online Gambling Establishments

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The Town Council of Branford unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that would ban the operation of establishments allowing any type of online gambling, including online gambling machines, sports betting facilities and online casinos. There was no public comment or opposition voiced at the meeting. This follows a ban in Marion County on online gambling machines earlier this month.

Branford Town Council President Ken Saunders said there is no place in the town for such activity like internet cafes because it is so small. The town has just over a one-mile radius. He also said the town has churches and residential areas like public parks, playgrounds and schools.

Most towns have a protection zone around these facilities, but because of the size of Branford, there is no place to put a zone for internet cafes that would allow online gambling and sports betting, he said.

The ordinance says “the Town Council finds it necessary to ban the operation of these establishments for the health, safety, morals and welfare of the community of Branford.”

Donna Hardin, the town clerk of Branford for over 15 years, said these kinds of establishments are not something the council wants inside the municipal limits.

“Our town is so small we don’t really have any room for it,” Hardin said.

She said it is not a problem in the town – there are currently no internet cafes in Branford – and the council wants to keep it that way.

According to the ordinance, the ban is for 12 months, with an automatic 6-month extension. The automatic extension could be reduced or stopped by the council.

Hardin said during the ban, the council will be able to see if there have been any problems regarding online gambling in the town and evaluate if any more action should be taken.

She said this vote is a preventative measure by the council to ensure that Branford will not experience crime or illegal activities that may come along with these establishments.

Marion County’s Feb. 2 unanimous vote to ban online gambling machines in internet cafes followed a string of robberies of such establishments in the county.

At the meeting, 23 people spoke against the ordinance to ban online gambling machines, which bring in a lot of business for the internet cafes. There are currently just under 40 internet cafes in Marion County.

Internet cafes, also known as convenience casinos or adult arcades, offer online games that are almost identical to slot machines in casinos, according to Marc Dunbar and Daniel Russell, who specialize in gaming law.

Florida has more types of gambling than any other state in the United States, according to Dunbar and Russell.

While the town council does not plan to see any establishments like internet cafes within Branford, Saunders said other businesses are being built that citizens and the community will enjoy:

“Our town is growing, but it’s businesses that everyone can use.”

About Charlene Medders

Charlene is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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