Joy’s Internet Casino in Tavares, Florida was still open Friday just a few hours after the gaming operation was the scene of a brazen armed robbery, according to local news reports.
Four men robbed several players at the casino, overpowered a security guard, handcuffed him and stole his gun — before fleeing.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the “illegal” venue — to get shut down — needs to be investigated by a specialized drug unit — which is currently busy with cases related to the opioid epidemic. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told WFTV it is a difficult and time-consuming process to close an illegal casino, especially if they want to have solid cases against the illicit operations.
It is unknown how much money the bandits stole from the players or the venue on Friday. They also stole cell phones, authorities said.
Two of the suspects were arrested shortly after the heist. They were identified by authorities as Steve Manor and Zakee Garhi, WFTV reported.
Another two suspects remained on the loose later Friday. One was believed to the mastermind behind the robbery, while the other was the suspected get-away driver, the sheriff’s office said.
Even though Joy’s and other internet gambling operations are illegal in Tavares, Joy’s had many players there on Friday afternoon, WFTV said.
The sheriff’s office confirmed to the TV station that such venues lead to other forms of criminal activity beyond illegal gambling.
Florida Authorities Search Internet Gambling Cafes
Recently, authorities have conducted raids on illegal internet gambling cafes in Tavares.
On Nov. 24, Tavares police searched Dreamers, and seized over $10,000 and several computers from the venue. The court-ordered raid was the second one undertaken in Tavares in the past few months, WFTV said.
Also, in February 2018 police arrested the owner of another Tavares internet cafe, Lucky Time, on gambling charges. Police said they found 50 computer hard drives and TV screens during the search, according to the Daily Commercial.
Violent Gambling Related Crime
The Sunshine state has been the scene of several other incidents of gambling- related violent crime in recent years. In May 2017, Dreamers Internet Cafe in Leesburg was robbed by two masked men wearing dark clothes. One employee there was pistol whipped in the face with a handgun.
Additionally, in November a Florida man allegedly set a car on fire in Holiday while an acquaintance was inside. The assailant had lost several thousand dollars to the victim in poker games before the murder, police said.
Elsewhere in Florida, in September Hard Rock Hollywood was the site of a male gambler getting drugged — and later had his watch and money stolen by two women suspects.
Based on the man’s statement, police believe the pair slipped some kind of drug — perhaps a date rape narcotic — into the male gambler’s drink at the Hard Rock. Earlier, the women were seen on surveillance video talking with the same man at a three-card poker table, and later at a slot machine.
After swallowing the drink and feeling sluggish, the women escorted the victim to a nearby car and took him to his hotel, located nearby, the man said. After he eventually woke up, he told police his Rolex watch was gone, with an estimated value of $15,000, as was $1,000 in cash.