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Storefront gaming ban headed to Senate floor

by Dara Kam | April 2nd, 2013

Delray Beach sisters Anita Silverman and Tobie Berg

A proposed ban on Internet cafes that would also shutter adult arcades is headed to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Tuesday over the objections of dozens of seniors who traveled from Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties to plead with lawmakers to leave them alone.

The proposed ban, already passed by the Florida House, is a swift reaction to a a multi-state sting last month that 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.
The proposal would ban slot machine-like games at storefront gaming centers, including those that cater to seniors who testified Tuesday morning that they spend hours playing the games for as little as $20.

And, the seniors and arcade operators said, the amusement centers give them a place to and people to hang out with instead of spending their days – and nights – alone.

Many of the seniors were from Port St. Lucie. They complained that the arcades are the only entertainment for them in their community.

“We have lunch. We have dinner. We celebrate our birthday there. So if they close, a lot of us are going to be very lonely,” one Port St. Lucie resident said.

Mike Cannon, who owns Mardi Gras arcade in Port St. Lucie, told the committee that the arcades, which operate under a 30-year-old statute, shouldn’t be punished because of the Allied Veterans wrongdoing.

“You had a big scandal on your hands and we had nothing to do with it,” Cannon said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We paid our taxes. We do everything by the law and we’ve never had a problem.”

Sen. John Thrasher, the bill sponsor, explained that the measure (SB 1030) would not impact children’s arcades such as Dave and Buster’s or Chuck E. Cheese.

That drew the wrath of Gale Fontaine, president of the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association, who owns several adult arcades in Broward County.

“This is nowhere for them to go. They eat lunch together. They eat dinner together. It has nothing to do about the games. It’s their clubhouse,” Fontaine said, referring to dozens of elderly audience members, some with canes or in wheelchairs, and many of whom were clad in white T-shirts imprinted with “Don’t kill amusement centers” in red.
“I think it’s a disgrace that we will take care of the children’s community and not take care of the senior community.”

Delray Beach resident Anita Silverman, 82, traveled on a bus organized by the association along with about 80 others to attend the committee meeting early Tuesday morning.

She said she is a widow who enjoys the camaraderie of the Atlantic Arcade less than a mile from her house.

“Come Saturday night, I’m all by myself. Saturday night is very lonely,” she said.

The ban will shut down about half of the 300 American Legion halls now open throughout the state, Bob Kiley, American Legion District 6 commander, said. Many of the halls run adult arcades, but all of the proceeds go to charity, Kiley said.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved the proposal even as several members expressed concern that it cast too broad a net.

“I would like to see…a carve out just like we gave Chuck E. Cheese bingo,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood.

The arcades pay 4 percent of their gross proceeds to the state and 6 percent sales tax, Sobel pointed out.
“They’re a legitimate business and there’s unintended consequences by putting them into a different category. I don’t think we intended to do that. If there needs to be more regulation…so be it. This is the difference between apples & oranges.”

Acknowledging that the proposal may cast “too wide a net,” Sen. Jeremy Ring chided the arcade operators for fiercely opposing previous efforts to impose stricter regulations on them.

“We don’t need to be here today. This could have been worked out years ago.
But it is here today because there has only been vehement opposition and never any proactive response to try to work together to create the proper regulations that I’m convinced do not exist,” Ring, D-Margate, said.

But Thrasher insisted the bill is designed to close a “gray area” in law exposed by the Allied Veterans sting.

“I don’t believe we’re putting anybody out of business. If… because of existing loopholes…they have moved into areas they shouldn’t have moved into…they may have to adjust some of the games that are out there,” Thrasher said. “But what this bill does is tighten up the gambling laws. I’m not going to back off.”

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9 Responses to “Storefront gaming ban headed to Senate floor”

  1. TrafficAvenger Says:

    The game plan of the state is to get grandma out of the arcades and into the casinos where the real money makers are. Then this way there will be more money from the casinos to pass along to the legislatures in the form of campaign donations.

    Lets get grandma out of the arcades and back into the bingo halls and casinos where they should be.

    Note to G.O.P. state legislatures. Grandmas vote and they do and will remember who closed down their locale arcades.

    Keep up the good work troops, your days are numbered.

    Give it to them grandma.
    See you at the polls on the
    4th. of Nov. 2014

  2. Leah Says:

    Yes your days in office are numbered you are the criminals here trying to cover your own mistakes bunch of animals

  3. Bonnie Says:

    I second that! I vote and will most assuredly remember who voted and how. I’m getting sick of career politicians deciding what’s good for me. You have to love the power of social media and will make sure I use it so don’t get to comfy in your elected seats.

  4. Mike G. (allupindatass) Says:

    @Dislodged Coxis

    Three fourths of your post is inaccurate. It’s fiction. And it embarrasses me to be involved with athletics. Tremendously. And that post had to have been written by a person who didn’t have a child. And has never had a child that had their HEART BROKEN and come home upset. And had to deal with that child when he is upset. And kick a person when he’s down! Here’s all that kid did. He goes to class. He’s respectful to the media. He’s respectful to the PUBLIC. And he’s a good kid, and he’s not a professional athlete, and he doesn’t deserve to be kicked when he’s down. If you have a child someday, you’ll understand how it feels. But you obviously don’t have a child. I do. If your child goes down the street, and someone makes fun of him because he dropped a pass in a pickup game, or SAYS HE’S FAT, and he comes home crying to his mom, you’d understand. But you haven’t had that. But someday you will. And when your child comes home, you’ll understand. If you want to go at an athlete, ONE OF MY ATHLETES, you go after one that doesn’t do the right things. You don’t downgrade him because he does everything right and may not play as well on Saturday. And you let us make that decision. That’s why I don’t read comments anymore. BECAUSE IT’S GARBAGE. And the editor that let it come out IS GARBAGE. Attacking an amateur athlete for doing everything right. And then you want to write comments about guys that don’t do things right, and downgrade those who do make plays. Are you kidding me? Where are we at in society? COME AFTER ME! I’M A MAN! I’M FORTY! I’M NOT A KID. RIGHT SOMETHING ABOUT ME or our coaches. Don’t right it about a kid that does everything right. That’s heart is broken. And then say that the coaches said he was scared. THAT AIN’T TRUE. And then to say that we made that decision because he was. Because he threatened to transfer. THAT’S NOT TRUE. So get your facts straight. And I hope someday you have a child and someone downgrades him or belittles him, and you have to look him in the eye and say you know what? It’s okay. They’re suppose to be mature adults but they really aren’t. Who’s the kid? Who’s the kid here? Are you kidding me? That’s all I got to say. Makes me wanna puke!

  5. FlyBoy On Boy Action Says:

    Mike G.

    WTF are you talking about? Stay on topic or don’t bother writing anything!
    I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks, and Chicago crews. 11 out of 12, there’s 12 flight attendants, individual, never the same flight attendant twice, eleven f-cking over-the-top, f-cking azz-f-cking homosexuals and a granny.
    Eleven. I mean, think of the odds of that. I thought I was in Chicago, which was party-land.

    After that, it was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes… Well I don’t give a f-ck. I hate 100 percent of their azzes.

    So, six months, I went to the bar three times. In six months, three times.

    Once with the granny and the f*g, and I wish I hadn’t gone.

    At the very end with two girls, one of them that was part do-able, but we ended up going to the bar and then to the crew at St. Louis, and all these two women wanted to do was, one wanted to berate her sister and the other wanted to bitch about her husband.

    Literally, for three hours, me and the F.O. When that was done, got back to my room, I’m like why the f-ck did I stay up?

  6. Kevin Says:

    I’ve never been to an adult arcade; I don’t play the lottery and have only gone to the dog races once in my entire life. I think the lottery is an ignorance tax primarily levied on poor people in the community. That said I don’t believe these legislators have any right to close legitimate tax paying law abiding businesses. If you want to do something about the scourge of gambling then be bold, take a stand and shut it all down. But you know what, you won’t do it because these big organized gambling centers contribute heavily to your campaigns and hire lobbyists to keep you in line. My guess is that’s who you are working for with the passage of this law. Like another poster said, this is intended to get granny out of the local adult arcade and into the big casino where their money can make it into your campaign account. This has got to be the most corrupt legislative bodies in Florida’s history. I too an keeping track on how you vote and will do my part to remove all of you self serving egotists from office at the next opportunity.

  7. John Says:

    There’s a difference between the Internet Cafes who were affiliated with Allied Veterans and those that are legitimate businesses. Just as there is a difference between politicians who unknowingly accepted a $500 check from Allied and those that got bundled checks. For example Ellyn Bogdanoff was mentioned in the running for Lt. Gov., but it turns out she received $19,000 from Allied affiliates. Our Governor should be mindful of this ever-expanding probe as he makes the critical decision on whether or not to support this Cafe bill and who will replace Carroll.

  8. Bee Says:

    Do you remember friends the time before election when Gov. Rick Scott went out of his way and visited a adult arcade and asking for the elders support on his campaign. During this moment, we will see my friends how true is he with his word!

  9. Bee Says:

    It’s just unbelievable! Senator Thrasher, and the rest of the senators who voted to pass this bill, I hope you guys watch yourself on tv and see how inconsistent you guys are. That you wanna hear what the PEOPLE OF FLORIDA SAY. What other people rather than the seniors are we talking about here who went out of their way from different part of the state.
    How sincere are we to thank and acknoledge all this seniors and veterans who fight for for us and traveled a long way. guys should have said something better than those words you guys explained coz even a 5th grader won’t buy this stories mr senators! What a disgrace!
    Let me tell you my testimony, I am a 46 year old who drives my aunt almost everyday in an adult arcade, and thats where I found out and have observed the reason why this seniors go to this place, it’s not about the game, it’s the enjoyment, fun, entertainment of vocalist and performers, friends to talked to, dance with, have lunch and dinner with that no place can replace. Even myself become very involve because of the time when my aunt drove by herself, everyone is looking for me, since then I promise myself that I will always attend not only to being my aunt there but to see this elderly enjoying themselves .
    Well after all it was said and done, I
    Just wasting my time and effort anyways for people like you who pretend to listen and do something. I am just addressing this to people who’s concern and not to senators. I just have a question, why did you guys chose to be ellected for this position? For what? People know! We know. Thank you….bee

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