Internet ban, in limbo in Senate, on its way to House floor with blessing of Gov. Scott and Cabinetby Dara Kam | February 1st, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are putting pressure on lawmakers to approve an all-out ban on Internet cafés now on its way to the House floor but facing a doubtful future in the Senate.
The House Economic Affairs Committee approved the bill (HB 3) this morning, drawing the praise of the Republican governor and Cabinet who want the so-called “casinos on the corner” shuttered.
Critics of the cafés, an estimated $1 billion industry which operates under state “sweepstakes” laws and are largely unregulated, say they prey on the state’s poor and vulnerable. But the café operators say they provide good jobs for their employees and a place to socialize for seniors and others.
Scott believes the store-front casinos found in strip malls throughout the state are already illegal but wants lawmakers to officially ban them.
“These store front casinos are impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and families,” said Governor Scott. “They are and should be illegal. Representative Plakon’s bill closes this loophole and I commend his dedication to shutting down these establishments,” Scott said in a statement released by Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican who’s sponsored the bill.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined in the chorus demanding the shut-down.
But the Senate is moving forward with a separate measure that would regulate the cafés and impose a $100 fee per computer terminal for operators. Estimates of the number of cafés in the state range from 800 to 1,400 but all agree they have mushroomed in the past few years. Palm Beach County commissioners recently barred new cafés from opening in unincorporated areas.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a regulation measure and set aside a bill that would make the cafés illegal.