Middle Keys man jailed on felony gambling charges stemming from Internet shop

The owner of a former Internet gambling parlor in Marathon is facing a pair of third-degree felonies resulting from a March 26 undercover operation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Robert Kofler, 52, is charged with keeping a gambling house and running an illegal lottery at his Lucky Duck Sweepstakes shop at the Town Square Mall in Marathon. His arrest followed an investigation by the FDLE's Illegal Gambling Task Force.

Kofler was arrested around 9 p.m. Friday after the State Attorney's Office issued an arrest warrant resulting from an investigation, which was part of a statewide sweep. Each felony count is punishable by up to five years in prison. 

"FDLE has a task force that was investigating the Internet gambling and had successful prosecutions statewide," State Attorney Catherine Vogel said. "They decided to take on this facility and opened an investigation. We cooperated with the investigation and the arrest was the result."

According to a search warrant signed April 2 by Circuit Court Judge Peary Fowler, the FDLE sent the undercover agents into the Lucky Duck at 10:25 a.m. to investigate.

An FDLE agent paid $20 and received roughly three hours of Internet access, as well as 2,000 credits/sweepstake entries (200 for each dollar) for games on the computers there.

One game was a "five-reel, 30-line, spinning reels game" called Lucky Shamrock and another was a similar game called Arabian nights. The agents placed bets, pushed an on-screen button to "spin" the reels and won or lost credits based on the results.

The search warrant says the agents played for 17 minutes and received cash from Kofler when finished.

The April 10 arrest warrant signed by Fowler says "it was determined that the 'sweepstakes' games were in fact an illegal lottery."

"Due to the fact that the business is utilizing illegal slot machines and conducting an illegal lottery, the business is therefore operating as a gambling house in violation" of state law, it says.

Kofler's arrest apparently was independent of statewide raids last year connected to a group called Allied Veterans. During that sweep, three Keys Internet shops were closed down but no arrests were made.