JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After the people associated with Allied Veterans of the World were charged with running a $300 million dollar illegal gambling operation under the guise of a charity, State Senator John Thrasher helped pass a ban on all internet cafes in Florida.
And now that Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis has been convicted of racketeering and other charges for his role, Thrasher tells us the legislature got it right and will continue examining the expansion of gambling in Florida.
“The internet cafes were simply internet casino, roadside types of operations,” Sen. Thrasher tells WOKV News.
He says Florida shouldn’t be a destination for gambling.
“I don’t think that’s a healthy thing for our state.”
But he says it was becoming more like that when the cafes were open.
“You know kids were walking by them,” he says. “They were open. You could see the machines.”
Thrasher credits law enforcement for investigating the Allied Veterans of the World for years, and the jury for convicting Mathis. He was the first of the dozens charged to go the trial, and he’s the one investigators and prosecutors referred to as the “mastermind” behind the operation.
And he thinks Mathis’ conviction will set a precedent for the others.
“It’ll probably have a pretty chilling effect on the rest of them who think they want to go to trial,” he says. “You’ll probably see a lot of plea bargaining going on right now….would be my guess.”
Sen. Thrasher says the state legislature will have another “big debate” this year on the “expansion of gambling” in Florida.
“I just think our state is one that has been built on family-orientated entertainment, and we ought to continue to do that,” he says.