Fla. House votes to ban so-called Internet cafes

The tribe has received legal opinions that says any effort to keep open Internet cafes would violate the 2010 compact that granted the Seminoles exclusive gambling rights in exchange for paying the state $1 billion over a five-year period.

Fla. House votes to ban so-called Internet cafes

By Gary Fineout
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida House on Thursday voted to shut down more than 1,000 storefront operations known as Internet cafes that sprouted across the state in the last five years.

Backers of the legislation say the measure will eliminate gambling operations that exploited a loophole in the law to set up shops that target the poor and the elderly in the state.

“These are truly the crack cocaine of gambling,” said Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood and sponsor of the bill (HB 3).

Internet cafes sell customers either phone cards or Internet time. But they also offer customers a chance to redeem electronic sweepstakes on computers that use software that mimics casino-styled games.

Sweepstakes – such as those handed out by fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s – have been legal for decades. But the explosion of Internet cafes has triggered a debate about whether or not they are actually a form of illegal gambling. Some counties have tried to shut down the operations completely, while others have chosen to pass ordinances that regulate them.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi as well as prosecutors and sheriffs across the state have called for legislators to ban the operations.

But the push to ban the Internet cafes may go nowhere.

So far the Florida Senate has refused to move a Senate bill that calls for a ban.

Senators instead say they want to pass a bill that would regulate the cafes instead. They contend that banning the cafes now would result in the loss of thousands of jobs for those who now work at them.

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