Legislative Session Coverage
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – By an overwhelming vote, the Florida House passed a measure Thursday which would ban so called ‘internet café games’.
“We’ve got a cancer in Florida, and it’s growing, and it’s growing at a rapid rate,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.
The Republican-dominated House voted 72-43, largely along party lines, to approve the ban (HB 3).
However, key senators have already said they will not approve a ban, arguing that the state should instead regulate the hundreds of Internet cafes that have popped up in strip shopping centers across the state.
“This bill is stone-cold dead when it hits the Senate,” said House Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West.
Internet cafes offer computerized games that the industry says comply with sweepstakes laws. But opponents argue that the cafes offer a form of illegal gambling and particularly target low-income residents.
Bill sponsor Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said lawmakers need to change state law to make clear the games are illegal. But bill opponents said, in part, that banning the games would cause thousands of café workers to lose their jobs.
“Regulate, don’t eliminate,” said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach. “Don’t eliminate jobs. Regulate the Internet cafes.”