Thu March 14, 2013
Internet Cafe Gambling Scandal Overshadow Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll's Resignation
Jennifer Carroll's days as lieutenant governor and presumed running mate for Gov. Rick Scott's reelection campaign may already have been numbered when she resigned this week because of her connection to an Internet gambling scandal.
Meanwhile, the investigation of a purported charity called Allied Veterans of the World promises to overshadow the political shakeup in Tallahassee and lead to a big change in Florida's gambling landscape.
Carroll, a Navy veteran and former state House legislator, once ran a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, which investigators say was actually a $300 million enterprise that devoted only a fraction of its huge profits from storefront Internet gambling shops to its supposed charitable work.
She left a job in which she had become increasingly irrelevant and a distraction for the Scott administration, the Miami Herald reported today:
In Scott’s annual State of the State address to the Legislature, Carroll merited a passing one-sentence mention. The Miami port director, Bill Johnson, received more time.
Scott called Carroll “tireless” Wednesday, and once described her as the hardest-working lieutenant governor in the country. But if she was, it was hard for anybody to see.
She had few duties other than chairing a board promoting the space industry, and every time she made news it seemed to be negative, to the point where it was widely believed Scott would have chosen someone else to be his running mate in 2014.
Carroll so far has not been accused of wrongdoing in connection with Allied Veterans. But state investigators, at a news conference in Orlando on Wednesday, announced the arrests of 55 people, including prominent lawyers and police officials in the Jacksonville area and suspects in five other states.
And the growing scandal seems to have lit a fire under the Legislature's dormant desire to rid the state of Internet cafes where customers spend hours gambling on online games. As the Herald reported in another story,
The investigations prompted Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, to introduce legislation next Monday that would ban Internet cafes in Florida. The Florida House last year passed legislation that would ban the gaming centers, but the Senate, concerned about the impact on jobs, refused to go along.
Richter said the Senate leadership had been supportive of imposing a moratorium opening new Internet cafes until the Legislature took a comprehensive look at gambling laws next year. But the revelations this week, he said, have “expedited the thinking going forward.”
Although Allied Veterans is registered as a charitable organization for tax purposes, Bailey said that investigators found that from January 2008 to January 2012 only $5.8 million went to any charitable groups, including those serving veterans.
Gov. Scott told reporters on Wednesday Carroll had resigned to limit the distraction to his administration. "She made the right decision for the state and her family," he said.
The governor said he will not replace the lieutenant governor until after the legislative session concludes in May.