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2013 Legislative Session
TALLAHASSEE (FBW) – As the Florida House of Representatives is set Thursday to approve a bill banning Internet gambling cafés, Speaker Will Weatherford believes the measure will “probably be the biggest reduction in gaming” in Florida history.
The Speaker, who is a member of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, also spoke about his Christian faith and legislative priorities. A full story on the interview will be published later.
Special gambling committees in the House and Senate have passed measures (HB 155/SB 1030) to ban Internet cafés in the wake of a massive, statewide investigation into alleged illegal gambling by a charity, Allied Veterans of the World, that has resulted in 57 arrests and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who once was a consultant for the group.
“It’s unfortunate it took a scandal of this magnitude to get people to recognize what was going on with the Internet cafés,” Weatherford said. Although the House passed a ban last year, the Senate preferred a regulatory approach, resulting in no bill becoming law.
“I can’t speak to why the other chamber didn’t want to pass it,” he said, “But I’m thankful that we’re getting it done now.”
While floor action is anticipated Thursday in the House, the Senate measure will be heard in at least one more committee before it reaches the floor.
Internet gambling cafés have proliferated in Florida in recent years, with estimates of as many as 1,000 across the state. Operators claim the cafés are legal, offering sweepstakes-type prizes. But critics believe the practice is already illegal and legislation is needed to definitively make that clear.
“It’s been the largest expansion of gaming that the state has ever had and we never passed a law to do it,” Weatherford said. “They just literally started opening up these facilities all over the state and the Legislature would not act to ban them.
“So, now we are. And I’m very excited. It will probably be the biggest reduction in gaming our state has ever had,” he added.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, praised Weatherford’s leadership on banning the cafés in a March 18 interview with the Witness.
“I’m just as excited as I can be that the Internet cafés are on the chopping block,” Baxley said. He is a member of The Vine Community Church in Ocala, a Southern Baptist congregation, and a member of the Witness Board of Directors.
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