Postmortem on Ban of Internet Cafes, Senior Arcades

By: Dave Heller | Posted: April 11, 2013 3:55 AM
John Thrasher

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine | Credit: Dave Heller

Internet cafes across Florida died Wednesday, signed out of existence with the signature of Gov. Rick Scott.

The governor signed legislation banning all electronic games that simulate slot machines or other casino-type games. It took effect immediately, leaving police and prosecutors with the authority to shut down and make arrests at any cafes that continue to operate.

Some arcade operators are considering retooling their machines to meet the new definitions for legal amusement games.

In the meantime, however, it's estimated that about 1,000 Internet cafes employing 14,000 people are out of business as a result of the law.

The law creates a dilemma for Scott, whose main mission since he came to office has been to create jobs in Florida. 

Here is reaction, in word and video, of some of the state legislators: 

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Florida

“I think the House and Senate did the right thing to crack down on illegal gaming, especially in light of the Allied Veterans multistate criminal conspiracy. They did the right thing and now they can get back to working on my two priorities for the session: the $2,500 pay raise across-the-board for our classroom teachers and eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment so we have more jobs.

“This bill is to crack down on illegal gaming and that’s what the House and Senate did. They cracked down on illegal gaming. They did the right thing.”

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine

“But while I care about creating jobs, just like the governor does, none of us want to create jobs around illegal activity and I think everybody would agree with that. So hopefully some of these folks will retool their existing machines and put them in a posture where they’re actually legal machines and I think they can do that.”

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando 

“This was a scandal of scandals. We had our lieutenant governor fall from grace on this one. I can’t describe to you how surreal it was up here when I saw that and it just gave us all this feeling that we don’t have a handle on these Internet cafes. And while I don’t have a personal offense against them because I believe people [should] be able to do what they want to do if they’re not hurting others, in this case, they were hurting others.”

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island

“Internet cafes really were kind of Lone Rangers out there. They were not paying taxes, they were not regulated and so I’m quite confident in the direction that the state is taking.”

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa

“It was a fast reaction to an incident and maybe we didn’t give enough time and thought to it. At least we could’ve talked about it some more through the end of session, because the bill -- whatever the majority wanted -- could have passed later. It didn’t have to, but we rushed to judgment and in the consequences of that, jobs will probably be lost, seniors might not have access to arcades and we didn’t adequately explore whether we could come up with a law that would require them to make these machines operate legally.”

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey 

“We always heard about the mom-and-pop Internet cafes where senior citizens went in and used them with pretty much just their pennies, nickels and dimes. Now we’re finding out it’s a lot bigger than that. It’s not just the pennies, nickels and dimes. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars that are being taken from patrons in this state, from consumers in this state, with no regulation, absolutely zero regulation.”

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville

“We have a number of Floridians who are out there that will be impacted by this, that will lose jobs. We have a number of businesses that may have challenges as it relates to them being able to move forward. I’m hopeful as with every piece of legislation that we pass, we have glitch bills and as those issues are raised, that we will be able to address those issues and make sure that we’re doing what’s in the best interest of Florida.”

The legislation to ban Internet cafes raced through the Legislature after a sweeping, three-year state and federal gambling investigation resulted in scores of arrests and the shutdown of about 50 Internet cafes operated by the group Allied Veterans of the World.

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll was forced to resign because she had worked for the group several years ago and said she did not want to become a distraction.

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Video Credit: Dave Heller

Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance reporter/videographer. 

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (6)

Rebecca Stroud
12:05PM APR 12TH 2013
I hope Dave Heller takes it on himself to expose this absolutely inane move by the dimwits in Tallahassee. Of course!!, it was all about CYA; and the one who gripes me the most is John Thrasher...took a bundle but was the loudest mouth in shutting down the arcades. Hypocrites, all, and I hope not a one of them gets re-elected!!!
vince lipari
7:11AM APR 12TH 2013
how about an investigative report on casino politcal contributions to politician's !! lol lol--"OR" "_THE "WALLSTREET WASHINGTON CONNECTION"--- BASIS FOR A GOOD BOOK
5:17PM APR 11TH 2013
Isn't it funny how fast they can get things done when they are covering themselves. Saw an article discussing possible law suit against the State of FL guess the taxpayers will end up paying for their rush job. DJ on radio this morning saying they lost his support. Getting lots of publicity and it's not good.
Christine Jordan
10:59AM APR 11TH 2013
It just goes to show that this legislation was intended to put a stop to Internet Cafe's but took out the senior arcades and in their rush, not a single legislator understood the difference between the two. If they had taken the time to understand the difference, they could have saved thousands of jobs and collateral businesses, as well as crucial tax revenues that Senior Arcade games paid and Internet Cafe's did not! They only rushed it in an effort to cammoflauge the real issue.....the campaign contributions!! The real story is out there waiting to be uncovered!
8:24AM APR 11TH 2013
I thought that in a free society, the government was to assist and aid the people's needs and desires. What was this hurting other than providing competition to the lottery and the big casinos? Perhaps some controls on it may have been warranted to keep the businesses from fleecing it's clientel but to ban them completely is over the top!!!!
vince lipari
7:03AM APR 11TH 2013
old "american way" money talks bull[filtered word] walks !! lol casinos are the big campaign contributor's!!!!!!!!!

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