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Senate Dems put brakes on Internet cafe ban…almost

by Dara Kam | April 4th, 2013

UPDATE: Senate Democrats won’t block the Internet cafe ban from rolling over, after all. The caucus never took a formal vote and several members were absent during a discussion.

Senate Democrats had intended to put the brakes on an Internet café ban that would also shut down “senior arcades” popular with elderly residents in Palm Beach County.

Sen. John Thrasher had hoped to get a floor vote on his bill (SB 1030) today. But the Democratic caucus, with the support of two Palm Beach County senators, balked at rushing the measure through instead of allowing the normal procedure to take place. “Rolling over” a bill to third reading for passage requires a two-thirds majority, or 27 votes, meaning that Republicans need the support of at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats. Despite concerns about the measure, the Democrats aren’t expected to block it from moving forward.

The House last month passed a similar version just 10 days after authorities accused Allied Veterans of the World of running a $300 million illegal gambling ring posing as a veterans’ charity.

The multi-state sting also prompted Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who was a consultant for Allied Veterans during her time in the Florida House, to resign on March 12.

Sen. Oscar Braynon called Legislature’s rush to pass the bills “a knee-jerk reaction to a federal investigation.”

A delay would have given the senior arcades, who have launched an all-out assault in an effort to get lawmakers to exempt their industry from the all-out ban, until next week to try to drum up more support. On Tuesday, the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association bused around 80 seniors, some in wheelchairs and using canes, from Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties to the Capitol to attend a committee meeting. The elderly patrons made impassioned pleas save the centers that cater to the elderly and where the customers play electronic games that resemble slot machines.

“There’s great concerns in the senior community in Palm Beach County. Quite frankly, if the adult arcades are not taken out of it, I may not be supporting the bill whatsoever,” Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said during a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting this afternoon shortly before the session began at 2 p.m.

Supporters of the Internet cafes contend that shuttering the storefront gaming centers will put 13,000 people out of work. Two committees took testimony on the measure before it reached the floor today.

“There’s statistics being floated around. I’d like to found out if they’re true, that in one fell swoop 13,000 people, minimum, are going to be out of a job. This has reaching implications for this legislation. I may support it. I may not. But when that many jobs are at stake, that big of an economic impact, allegations being made all different which ways, we need to have this aired out in the open,” Abruzzo said.

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10 Responses to “Senate Dems put brakes on Internet cafe ban…almost”

  1. maria diminno Says:

    I went to the Capital on Tuesday as one of those seniors. I’m not concerned about Internet Cafe’s, I am concerned for Adult Amusement Arcade’s. A remark was passed that they are preying on the poor of the poorest. We are not the poor of the poorest!!!! May I mention that if I took my grandchildren to see a movie it would cost me like $40.00 just to get in ( I adult, 2 children)…Popcorn is $10.00 a bag and soda at least $3-$4.00… A lot more than I spend at an Arcade. I could spend $10.00 And have lunch, dinner snacks, drinks, and stay for hrs. enjoying myself with friends….

  2. Thomas Says:

    What these learned democrats seem to overlook is, the gambling activty going on in these places is illegal. I spend much time bashing the republican party, but in this case I must support them. The jobs that would be lost are employees of illegal gaming houses, and eliminating them is the same as eliminating drug dealers or illegal lottery operators. Show some ethics here guys.

  3. Kathy Sessler Says:

    Why is it that the Florida law-makers are stalling on this issue? Internet Cafes and Adult Arcades are illegal Gambling Halls. The arcade and internet cafe owners, operators and lobbyists ‘claim’ they employ 13,000 workers. Question, how many of these ‘employees’ are “full Time”? How many are “part-time”? How much ‘taxes’ do these owners pay?
    What happened to ‘Allied Veterans of the World” was of their own doing. Its called “GREED”, folks, pure and simple!
    When a person, no matter the age, goes into one of the places they are putting a great deal of money into the owners pocket. Look at it this way. One has a better chance at winng if one goes to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, Vegas or even to Jersy. Think about it, Casinos make money off of the ‘losers’! thats how they can build new casino’s.
    On the other hand, the Internet Cafe and Adult Arcades only fill the owners pockets.
    Betting is Illegal people. Get over it. Find something else to spend your money on.
    To the Senior who wrote the above statement concerning her Kids and the movies. I would much rather spend quality time with my kids and grand children, than go to a place where i am committing a crime and losing money! Don’t you think it would be more beneficial to have fun with your kids or grand kids, than wasting your valuable limited time in a Arcade?
    There is so much more i could say concerning this issue. Yet theres not enough room on this page. In my opinion, these places have NO remorse as to what they are doing to any and all who frequent them. All they care about is MONEY!

  4. Nancy Durham-Joned Says:

    They are only counting the jobs lost in the senior arcades and internet cafes. Other business will also feel an impact. I go to Spin Depot in North Port, Sarasota County. We can have two nutritious meals every day. Where is the food purchased? At local stores. Hot dogs are available all day long. Again local stores. Once a month there is Customer Appreciation Day with prizes every hour. Prizes are bought locally. Taxes from the legal establishments will be lost. Who will make up this revenue? Think about all

  5. Nancy Durham-Jones Says:

    Sorry hit the send button by mistake. Think about all the empty syntax paying buildings. Just what we need…more empty buildings. Yes we would like to spend time with our kids and grandkids but pretty hard when they are thousands of miles away. On holidays we would eat alone or at a restaurant with other lonely people who ignore each other….and pay a high bill. We can spend the holidays with our FRIENDS and get a lovely meal at Spin Depot for the cost of a tip if we choose to give one. Close the illegal internet cafes but leave the Senior Cafes alone so we can enjoy them and have a social life.

  6. Lawrence Says:

    Kathy,

    Respectfully – get your facts straight. Senior Arcades paid the state of Florida $14,000,000 in taxes last year alone. Senior Arcades and Internet Café are 2 completely different business models. I employ 5 full time people and pay state, local, machine, sales and uses taxes. It is not betting. It is sad that you are uneducated on the issue at hand and are discriminating against establishments that are in fact operating within the law.I am posting a chart below to help educate you in the difference, you may have to cut and paste it to read it I hope you do.

    AMUSEMENT/SENIOR ARCADES
    Legal: Under Florida Statute 849.161, also known as “the Chuck E. Cheese” law, patrons can receive prizes for playing games of skill. The skill involved in this case is knowing when to hit the “stop” button on a machine. Experienced players can increase the amount of their wagers when they believe a machine is due to hit, proponents argue.
    Typical play: The minimum is usually 8 cents per play.
    Typical award: You can trade points earned for prizes, including electronics, cruises and $25 or $50 in gift cards from companies such as Publix and local restaurants. Players who don’t earn enough points for a prize can “carry” and save them for future use.
    Disclaimer: “We are Dave and Buster’s, except our kids are in their 70s and 80s,” says Gale Fontaine, president of the Florida Arcade Association.
    Also: The industry prefers the term “senior arcades,” rather than “adult arcades,” so the public won’t confuse them with adult-movie theaters.
    OTHER
    Under the law, senior arcades must have at least 50 machines. Internet cafes have no such minimum.

    INTERNET CAFES
    Legal: (Prior to the recent UGLY news) The games are classified as sweepstakes, following the argument that people who walk into, say McDonald’s, receive free Monopoly game pieces with a purchase. In case of Internet cafes, players get “sweepstakes entries” for buying time online. The instantaneous sweepstakes results are merely portrayed in the form of a slot machine, cafe owners argue.
    Typical play: 25 cents per play
    Typical payout: Patrons can ask Internet cafe staffers for cash at any time.
    Disclaimer: “This game simulation is merely a method of displaying a winning entry,” reads the “Game Info” section on each machine. As with other sweepstakes, patrons can enter for free by sending a 3-by-5 card with their vital information to the host address. _

    Amusement Arcade AKA Penny Arcade Sweepstakes/Internet Café
    Pays per machine tax to the state Yes No
    Pays local per machine tax Yes No
    Pays sales/use tax Yes No
    Has employees that adhere to all employment taxes and laws Yes No
    Claims to be or contribute all profits to a charitable origination No Yes
    Pays out in cash No Yes
    Awards with prizes (including gift cards – that support local businesses) Yes No
    Has games that are internet controlled No Yes
    Has games with a predetermined amount of payout No Yes

  7. Kathy Sessler Says:

    To; Lawrence
    Respectfully, my facts are straight! You state, “senior arcades paid the State of Florida $14,000,000 in taxes last year alone.” Please, can you prove that? because, so far NO news station, newspaper or any other news media source has ever reported on that. I believe you would be correct to come on TV and show the people of Florida those facts.
    I applaud you for employing 5 people. But is that all? It was stated in Tallahassee in front of the Senate (18 Mar 2013) that these places employ over !5,000. Lets see, if all of the arcades and cafes (1000 approx.) employ 5-6 people– there seems to be a discrepancy here.How about you doing the math!
    As far as your statements concerning: “wagering”, – Sir that is “gambling”, pure and simple. Look it up in Websters Dictionary. “Gift Cards” for $25 and $50. Again, thats ‘gambling’. Because the people “cash them in”.
    Adult Arcades are NOT like Chuck-E-Cheese! your ‘adults’ win prizes that can be transfered into cash. They do NOT play for Teddy Bears, Toys and other things that we, as adults, would not want….Sir no matter what you state, I will NEVER equate an Adult Arcade with ‘CHUCK-E-CHEESE’ establishments.
    As far as Ms. Fontaine goes, why don’t you look up a ‘law suit’ she filed in Aug 2011. I found it on the “JUDICAL VIEW”. She filed because of “missapropriation of corporate funds” among other charges against Florida Gameco,Inc. Which brings back an old saying my father once said: Be careful what you say and/or do, because it could come back to haunt you!
    A vast majority of Floridians are tired of people equating these places as a “CHUCK-E-CHEESE” type of establishment. That was stated because of a ‘poll’ that was done.
    Lastly, if all these 70 and 80 year olds want a ‘social life’, why don’t they get together at each others house and have a ‘computor party’. each woud bring thier own lap-top and play ‘GAMES’ FOR FREE!!!! If they say they dont know how to do this, then I’m sure someone would teach them. When they come to your establishment- They have to pay, Right. thats why you dont want them to do something on their own, IN MY OPINION!!!!

  8. Lawrence Says:

    I do employ 5 full time people (with benefits) not all locations do, my point to you is that you are rolling us all into one – this whole situation began by “Internet Cafes” being tax free and NOT having employees. You can confirm the quote of total taxes paid by Mike Wolfe the attorney for the Florida Arcade Association with the Florida Department of Revenue, and I believe it is up to seniors (such as myself I am 78) to decide when and where we would like to socialize.
    I can confirm to you that last month alone my sales/use tax was $9375 paid to the department of Revenue, send me an email address and I will be happy to scan and send a copy of the paid bill.

  9. Kathy Sessler Says:

    Sir, evidently you are the only so far that claims to have paid taxes. As far as i am concered, you do not want the senior citizens to do anything else except to patronize your establishment. Therefore, one can only believe you are only open to collect their money. And again, Internet Cafes and Adult Arcades prey on the elderly, in my opinion.
    You have not given resonable evidence to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you would be willing to go to the news media. Give proof that you have paid taxes. So all can see there is at least ONE adult arcade owner has done so.
    Again, you have not addressed the many concerns by which our congressmen/women, senators and representatives have asked to have proven. All I saw was owners and operators get up and talk about how “ILLEGAL GAMBLING” takes place at internet cafes and adult arcades.
    On 18 MARCH 2013, everyone (owners and operators) who stood in front of the Florida Senate, stated they were gambling and that NO taxes were being paid. By either the cafes or arcades. The Senate said that was because they had NO way to ‘regulate them’.
    Therefore, again- I request you call the news media. Make a plea to them and show them your tax papers. They may be interested in it. Since no one else has done so so far!!!
    I am not the only person in this Great State of Florida (and the nation) who watched the Senate Hearings that day. I would love to say more because I have followed this ‘epidemic’ for many years now.
    I have seen, with my own eyes, the trouble these establishments cause within families. People of all ages have become addicted and/or do not inform their spouses when withdrawing monies from accounts, and more. Their was over 1 billion dollars worth of EBT fraud associated with this and other cases.
    Thank you for this civil debate, Sir.
    ps By the way, I am 66 years young a veteran of not only the U.S.Army (1964-1969). I am also a Veteran of the U.S.Navy (1975-1982) when I was ‘rifted’. After that I worked for the U.S. Government until retirement.
    And trust me when I say, these activities need to be shut-down. They are, in my opinion, illegal.

  10. Lucrecia Tote Says:

    The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I know it was my option to read, however I actually thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you could repair for those who werent too busy searching for attention.

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