Florida House tees up Internet cafe banby Dara Kam | March 21st, 2013
The Florida House will vote tomorrow on an effort to shut down storefront gaming centers many lawmakers believe are actually illegal gambling houses.
The bill (HB 155) is on the fast-track after a multi-state sting resulted in 57 arrests and prompted Jennifer Carroll to resign as lieutenant governor. Authorities accused Allied Veterans of the World, a charitable organization Carroll consulted for while a state representative, of racketeering and money laundering charges associated with operating a $300 million illegal gambling ring.
Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, raised questions about the bill’s impact on “senior arcades,” adult amusement centers that are authorized under a different statute than Internet cafes, which operate under Florida law regarding “sweepstakes.”
The measure would ban arcades from giving away gift cards and prohibit the accumulation of points, thereby limiting prizes to 75 cents per game. Also at issue is whether the arcade games are “games of skill” or “games of chance,” which are prohibited.
Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the bill sponsor, said his bill won’t affect amusement arcades such as Chuck e. Cheese because those games involve skill while the adult arcade games resemble slot machines. The images move far too quickly for the naked eye to be able to skilfully stop them for a win, Trujillo said.
And Democrats argued that shuttering the arcades will put thousands of people out of work.
But Trujillo said that the jobs are part of an already illegal industry.
“I think it would cost the same amount of jobs if we came up here and said that marijuana dealers can no longer operate,” Trujillo, R-Miami, said.
The Senate could vote on its version of the ban as early as next week.