ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A non-profit that operates Internet cafes that some say front as gambling operations contributed $25,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration events, First Coast News has learned.
We uncovered several new details about the Internet cafes, including Gov. Scott's first comments on the business, as the operation spreads across Florida.
Allied Veterans made the $25,000 contribution to pay for a Gov. Scott inauguration event for "military appreciation," a spokesman said.
"Allied Veterans was asked to specifically sponsor this event," said Allied Veterans' lawyer Kelly Mathis. "I believe that other veterans organizations were also asked to sponsor the event."
Mathis didn't know who requested the donation. First Coast News reviewed the inauguration donors and did not spot any other contributions from veterans groups, or any other donations from nonprofits of any kind. The large donations were mostly from big corporations like Universal and Disney and attorneys.
A spokesman for Gov. Scott referred questions about the donations to the Republican Party of Florida. A spokesman there didn't return our calls.
Non-profits are prohibited from making campaign contributions. But donations to inaugural events are not considered campaign contributions because "it's not money intended to influence an election," Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said.
We're also getting the first comments on Internet cafes from Gov. Scott. A spokesman tells First Coast News the governor thinks the issue needs to be discussed at the next legislative session, although he said Gov. Scott hasn't formed a position on the issue.
Some call the cafes simulated gambling, but Allied Veterans counters that it's just a sweepstakes like the Monopoly game at McDonald's. The outcomes are predetermined. In fact, you can hand your Internet code back to the clerk immediately at Allied Veterans' locations and find out if you won any money, without having to spend hours sitting at the computer terminals.
Also, for the first time, Allied Veterans is warming up to the idea of more regulations from the state. They could pass something like Duval County did, which regulated hours of operation and security staffing.
"Allied Veterans would support state regulation. Technology in the form of electronic sweepstakes has outpaced legislation and now is probably the time to update the state statutes and regulations," Mathis said.
Allied Veterans is retaining people to help the process. Mathis serves as their lawyer and previously has acted as their spokesperson. But they also have Paul McCormick, president of The McCormick Agency, one of Jacksonville's largest public relations firms.
"Allied Veterans donation to Scott Inaugural earmarked for the Veterans events only. Leftover monies went to Wounded Warriors," McCormick wrote in an email to First Coast News.
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