Federal judge refuses to block Internet cafe banby Dara Kam | June 4th, 2013
A federal judge on Tuesday refused to block a ban on Internet cafes sought by senior arcade owners, who say they’ve unfairly been lumped in with the predatory storefront casinos.
Lawyers for Broward County adult arcades Boardwalk Brothers, Inc., and Play It Again FLA, LLC, claimed the law is unconstitutional in part because it is vague and arbitrary and denied seniors who gamble at the arcades their First Amendment rights of association.
The plaintiffs failed to show how the law would prevent seniors from gathering someplace else, U.S. District Judge James Cohn wrote in a 19-page order.
“Moreover, there is no evidence before the Court that enforcement of the statute would force Plaintiffs out of business and prevent patrons from associating at their establishments. Instead, the statute merely limits the types of games that might be offered. And even if the statute did force Plaintiffs out of business, no citizen enjoys a constitutional right to play amusement games,” he wrote.
Cohn did not rule on the merits of the law hurriedly passed by the Legislature in response to a multi-state gambling sting in April.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill on April 10, less than a month after state and federal authorities arrested 57 people in connection with Allied Veterans of the World, a St. Augustine-based nonprofit accused of posing as a charity while running a $300 million illegal gambling ring. The gambling bust also prompted former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to resign. Carroll had worked as a consultant for Allied Veterans while a member of the Florida House.
The arcades also failed to convince Cohn that the statute goes too far. The “state has a significant interest in proscribing the behavior regulated in the statute” and “an important public interest in limiting gambling and preventing minors from gambling.”
Seniors from Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties traveled to Tallahassee to plead with lawmakers to spare the gambling establishments, arguing that the centers offer relatively inexpensive entertainment and spare them from being lonely.