Internet cafe winnings vanish during power outage

Players claim they were ripped off by sweepstakes game


CLERMONT, Fla. – Deloris Glenn said she plunked down $100 at the Cyber Center Internet cafe on Saturday night to play a sweepstakes game and ended up winning $2,000.  Then the power went out, plunging the Clermont strip mall into darkness.

"When the computers came back on, your money was not on the computers," said Glenn, who claims her son lost $600 out-of-pocket and $2,000 in winnings during the same power outage.

Several other players said they, too, watched hundreds of dollars disappear when the computer screens went dark.

If a similar computer malfunction happened at a casino in Las Vegas, players could file a complaint with the Nevada Gaming Commission. But in Florida, where state lawmakers banned most Internet cafes last year, recourse for players like Glenn is unclear.

"There's no one you can turn to because attorneys don't want to take this on because they say there's no way to prove anything," said Glenn.

In April 2013 Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill outlawing most Internet cafes, which state investigators considered to be illegal casinos. However, many cafes soon reopened, claiming they had altered their sweepstakes games to comply with the new law, according to published reports.

It is unclear why the Cyber Center in Clermont remains in operation. Representatives from the Internet cafe did not respond to Local 6's request for comment Thursday night.

A spokesperson for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi referred Local 6 to the Lake County Sheriff's Office. A Sheriff's Office spokesman was not immediately familiar with the Cyber Center Thursday night.

"They say it's legal," said Glenn, referring to Cyber Center employees. "I don't know if it's legal or not myself, but they say its legal."

Signs inside the Cyber Center warn customers that the establishment is not responsible for power outages or computer malfunctions. However, an unidentified employee told Local 6 the company is trying to recover computer data that was lost during the power outage in hopes of reimbursing players. That employee did not know when the data might be recovered.

Glenn questions whether she will ever get her money back.

"We should stay away from the sweepstakes places," said Glenn. "They're not good for you."