THE SPECKTATOR

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Internet 'cafes' aren't the only way to 'spend' your hard-earned money

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Kerry Speckman shares her unique perspective and observations on people, places and events on the First Coast and beyond. She's also the 2012 winner of Jacksonville Dancing With the Stars, so she's got that going for her.

Contact Kerry by email or follow her on Twitter.

Earlier this month, nearly 60 people, including two veteran Jacksonville police officers, were arrested after a two-year investigation by the FDLE into a $300-million-dollar gambling scheme. I, for one, am shocked, not just at the operation itself or even its alleged participants but even more so, the number of people who are actually upset that the “Internet cafes” were shut down! Though I’ve never actually been inside one, I can’t imagine the allure of sitting in an old Quincy’s Steakhouse with blacked-out windows (that I highly doubt still smells like steak, baked potatoes and big, fat yeast rolls) when there are plenty of other legal ways to parlay a dollar into a million.

Florida Lottery: With 13,000 retail locations around the state, becoming a multimillionaire (or $2-aire in my case) is as close as your favorite supermarket, gas station or convenience store. The good news: You can become richer than your wildest dreams for only a dollar. Plus, you can scratch off your tickets in the privacy of your own home: You don’t even have to wear pants. The bad news: “Florida law mandates that the Florida Lottery provide the winner's name, city of residence, game won, date won and amount won to any third party who requests the information.”

Greyhound Racing: The best bet Orange Park offers live greyhound racing (that’s dogs, not buses) Monday and Wednesday–Saturday evenings, matinees Wednesday and Saturday–Sunday. The good news: It only takes a buck to play, and pools can get up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And admission is free to the lower level. The bad news: Your friends who are PETA members will never set foot in the place.

Simulcast Betting: Both locations of Best Bet—Jacksonville and Orange Park—allow bettors to waste wager on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing and jai alai from round the country. The good/bad news: See “Greyhound Racing” above.

Live Poker: Best Bet locations also offer live gambling “on the felt,” including Texas hold ’em and Omaha (limit, no limit and pot limit) and seven-card stud. If you don’t have a clue what any of that means, stay at home. Bad news: Real players don’t appreciate newbies who don’t know what they’re doing, especially when they accidentally win. Good news: They claim to have “the best sushi in town, and Jackpots can add up: current hold ’em pot is more than $67,000.

Casino Boat: Once it gets back underway (operations are currently suspended due to “hitting some snags” with the new ship, Jacks or Better Casino offers Las Vegas slot machines, table games including blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat, as well as their own trademarked game shootout poker. Good news: You don’t have to gamble to enjoy the entertainment (i.e., excellent people watching opportunities) and cheesy stage shows. Bad news: Possible seasickness, and if you get bored (translation: you run out of money) and want to go home, you’re trapped. Unless you’re a really good swimmer.

Road Trip: If it’s a Las Vegas-style gambling experience you're seeking, you’re going to have to head south. In addition to thousands of thousands of slots and table games, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel Hollywood and Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa are open 24/7/365. Good news: Both are four-star resorts with multiple onsite restaurants, bars, shops and spas. Bad news: Unlike Vegas, there’s no free alcohol for gamblewagerrs.

Flush Your Money Down the Toilet: Good news: You can "play" for as little as one penny—and there are "machines" pretty much everywhere. Bad news: Your chances of winning are even less than actual gambling.

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