Politics

Internet Cafe Ban Approved By Final Committee

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Gambling machine at an internet cafe.  (CBS4)

Gambling machine at an internet cafe. (CBS4)

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Legislative Session Coverage

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Legislation that would shutter Internet cafes and possibly senior arcades passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously Tuesday, and the sponsor said he would push for a vote by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he would speak to Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, about voting on the bill (SB 1030) during its first day of consideration, expected Thursday.

“I think we’ve heard enough about it, and I think we’re in a position to vote on it,” said Thrasher, who chairs the Rules Committee.

The legislation on Internet cafes has moved quickly since Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned in March because of her past consulting work for an Internet café group at the center of a multi-state racketeering investigation.

Opponents argue there could be unintended consequences in rapidly moving the ban forward including putting people out of work. In addition, critics say businesses such as Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s could get entangled in the legislation if the amusements they use are redefined by a local government or court as “games of chance.”

Supporters reject that argument saying the bill clarifies the existing law for law enforcement, as the electronic games used by the strip center businesses which have always been illegal under Florida law.

While legislators have been critical of the arcades for several years, the bill has rapidly made its way through both sides of the Legislature in response to a statewide investigation into alleged illegal gaming by a charity, Allied Veterans of the World. The probe has already led to 57 arrests. The investigation also resulted in Carroll, who had consulted for Allied while in the Legislature, to resign on March 12.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to review the legislation before deciding if he would sign it into law.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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