You must be a registered user to access our website. Please complete the registration form at no cost, or login if you are already a registered user. Be assured, your registration information is secure and will not be sold or made available to others.
To learn why registration is now required, see this editorial on the website changes. Once you have completed the registration process, to include verification of your email address, a cookie will be placed on your computer to automatically complete the login process in the future.
Registered users, click here.
New users or if you have never registered before, click here.
2013 Legislative Session
TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – The Internet Cafés that have popped up around the state, which some say are essentially strip mall gambling parlors, appear about to be finished as an industry in Florida.
The House Select Committee on Gaming took a step towards banning Internet cafes that opponents say are simply illegal gambling establishments. The committee voted 15-1 on March 15 on an amended bill (HB 155) that would further clarify the definition of slot machines used at Internet cafés, adult arcades and macanitas, essentially outlawing the facilities.
Legislative leaders said they wanted the ban hours after state and federal officials announced a massive investigation into the industry, a probe that also led to the March 13 resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who has done consulting work for the organization at the center of that probe.
Appearing before the House panel, Florida Baptist lobbyist Bill Bunkley spoke strongly in favor of the legislation, noting the timing of the action.
“Had it not been for the recent allegations of racketeering, money laundering, and overall corruption levied against a purported non-profit organization called Allied Veterans of the World, we would not be meeting here this morning,” said Bunkley, president of Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which represents the Florida Baptist Convention in Tallahassee.
Bunkley commended the inclusion of “adult arcades” in the legislation.
He urged members of the panel to fully disclose any direct or indirect ownership of any Internet café, including the ownership of stock of any related corporation.
“The people of Florida need to know who, if any, has a vested interest in these operations especially if they are to be voting on this issue,” Bunkley told the panel.
During debate on the legislation, Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, was the only member to respond to Bunkley’s request, noting he owns no interest in Internet cafés, although he does support as a matter of public policy various other kinds of gambling in Florida.
Arguing the legislation is a “knee-jerk reaction to what took place” three days before, Waldman voted against HB 155.
With the committee’s approval, consideration by the full House was expected to come as early as the week of March 18. The Senate is expected to act soon thereafter.
On March 13, House Speaker Will Weatherford reiterated the House’s support for the ban, which the body approved last year. While the Senate approved a bill to regulate the practice during the 2012 session, Senate President Don Gaetz said he would “fully support such a ban.”
After news of the investigation and Carroll’s resignation, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said, “My goal would be to get rid of them.” Thrasher is chairman of the powerful Rules Committee and is sponsor of a bill (SB 1030) to place a moratorium on Internet cafés, introduced before the disclosure of the investigation.
Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican who is chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, said he plans to take up the Thrasher bill March 18. Richter said he expects discussion during the meeting about possibly going beyond a moratorium.
You must be login before you can leave a comment. Click here to Register if you are a new user.