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House keeps Internet Cafe ban alive

The House Economic Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to outlaw the so-called Internet Cafes that operate video slot machines in strip malls across the state, ignoring claims that it will lead to the loss of 13,000 jobs and set up a conflict with the Senate.

The bill by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, has the support of Attorney General Pam Bondi and the other Cabinet officers. It would close the loophole in state law that now allows the slot machine look alikes to operate in more than 1,000 locations under a loophole in the state's sweepstakes law.

"This resets the button back,'' Plakon said. "We have three choices: ban, regulate, or look the other way."

Because of the widespread opposition to gambling in the Florida House, Plakon said the only practical political option was to ban. But he House position is in direct conflict with the approach taken by the Senate where the Senate Regulated Industries Committee last week voted to regulate the Internet Cafes and rejected an attempt to ban them.

Rep. Evan Jenne, R-Dania Beach, joined with other Democrats on the committee to oppose the bill, saying it will put an estimated 13,000 people out of work, hurt veterans organizations and senior centers.

"I'm certainly not going to take a passtime away from an 85-year-old woman,'' he said.

Kent Perez, lobbyist for Bondi's office, said existing state law clearly outlaws these operations and the bill merely clarifies that. "If the Legislature were to consider regulating, they should acknowledge what it is: gambling activity," he said.

Veterans groups opposed the ban, claiming it would interfere with their efforts to run the games to raise money for their charitable operations. But Plakon disagreed that his bill would interfere with their "skill-stop" machines and said he was surprised by their sudden opposition.

He quoted an industry statement that it intentionally targeted the poor and elderly because they alledgedly "were bad at math,'' and he read an e-mail from a Jacksonville woman who had lost her savings and become addicted to the machines.

 

 

Comments

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Randy Smith

Don't close 1000 businesses employing 13000 people that have been legal so far. Like any new industry it needs attention and regulation from lawmakers but banning and uprooting because lawmakers can't get grip with todays world of internet age is not progressive. We live in a world of online poker and hacking banning and shutting everything including internet is a sign lawmakers are not ready to embrace and deal with the reality and growth of new technologies and industry.

Richard

I think our government should focus their attention on more important things instead of taking grandma and grandpa's enjoyment away. Things like getting a grip on the cost of gasoline. We have personally seen people helped by winning in a sweepstakes room. They were able to put food on the table and gas in their tank!
I agree with regulation not shutting them down.

Gomer

The Prohabs are at it again. Trying to mandate how one should live their life. Actually if you follow the money, you will more than likely see that somewhere in their lives they stand to gain somehow with the closing down of these machines. Maybe they have interests that would benefit from these Rights killing laws.

It's time that people stand up to these criminals and just say "NO" we're NOT going to allow this and refuse to abide by these stupid Rights killing laws. The "Fun Killers" need a comeuppance for a change!!!! Imagine the judges that have to hear these cases!! They would have to say enough is enough. No more stupid laws. The Revolution begins NOW!!!!

Stop NDAA, down with the phony "Patriot Act", stop the phony "War on Drugs". Time for Change supports the Citizens Revolution for Freedom and Rights.

Ward Snyder

I own a plaza in Port St Lucie. It was occupied in the heyday by Real Estate offices, title companies, home builders, mobile home sales, etc, etc. etc. The market cratered here and had it not been for a Sweepstakes type business (not Internet Café) my plaza would have gone back to the bank. The owner is a fine gentleman who owns it with his mother. They care about their customers and in a tearful conversation the other day, the biggest upset was for his dear patrons who love to come to his establishment! This bill is OUTRAGEOUS! Regulate, not exterminate! To all of a sudden close them down with no measure of the economic impact to the employees, landlords, arcade owners, etc is pathetic and irresponsible on the part of the government. There are few jobs out here, few tenants, and a dismal market to put I mildly. This ruling puts me, the landlord out of business as well! These patrons come on their own free will. We do not need needless government intervention. Stop this bill!! Ward Snyder, Plaza owner

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