A Florida Senate committee followed the House lead on Monday and passed legislation to clarify state law to ban on Internet cafes that are operating electronic sweepstakes in strip malls across the state.
The move comes less than a week after a federal and state investigation led to the arrest of 55 individuals in Florida and five other states on racketeering and corruptions charges linked to gaming centers run by the Allied Veterans, a purported charity that gave only 2 percent of their proceeds to veterans.
The fallout also prompted the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll who previously represented the Allied Veterans in her consulting company and has led to one of the fastest legislative responses to a gambling probe in decades.
The Senate Select Committee on Gaming voted unanimously to pass the bill, even amid concerns that there may be unintended consquences that could affect penny arcades for children and seniors.
But the committee spent most of the meeting laying the foundation for why the bill is needed this year, when they had planned to wait until next year to clarify the law, when they will attempt a sweeping rewrite of the state’s gambling laws. “The events last week made two things very clear,” said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the committee. “One, that we could not wait another year to address Internet cafes. Two, instead of a moratorium we need an outright ban.”
He said that the bill clarifies that “gambling is illegal in Florida unless it’s legal” and there is nothing that makes the electronic sweepstakes games and online slot machine software used by the Internet cafes, adult arcades and maquinitas legal.
Owners of adult arcade operators urged the committee to reconsider the attempt to tighten the rules on them. Under the bill, the so-called adult arcade may only offer games of skill and may not give patrons rewards valued at more than 75 cents.
Jason Fischer of “Play it Again Arcade” in Davie told the committee the bill will discriminate against older people who see their amusement centers as their “home away from home.”
He and his brother run two arcades and
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Article source: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/senate-committee-passes-plan-to-ban-internet-cafes/2109668