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Internet sweepstakes cafes: gambling loophole or illegal gambling?

A Pinellas County legislator is at odds with his local sheriff over whether an Internet sweepstakes cafe the lawmaker has opened is against the law. State Rep. Peter Nehr's business, Fun City Sweepstakes sells phone cards.

But as the St. Petersburg Times reported today, for every $1 a person spends on a card, they also get 100 sweepstakes points to use at one of the business' 45 desktop computers. The computers can simulate the spinning images of a casino slot machine. You spin, and win, or lose. If you win, you can collect the winnings from the cashier.

Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats says he believes the sweepstakes businesses constitute gambling.

But Nehr disagrees.

"This is a legitimate business that has been vetted and found to be completely legal in the state," he told the Times. "I'm entitled like anyone else to open a legal business to earn money for my family."

Nehr sounded so sure about his business -- saying that it "has been vetted and found to be completely legal" -- that PolitiFact Florida decided to check it out.

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