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Internet cafe gambling ban still has hurdles

A House bill banning "internet cafes" made it through its first committee Tuesday, but the politics of gaming bills could ensare its chances of final passage.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, told the Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee that the bill would close a loophole in state law that allows the venues to run internet-based slot machines, often drawing complaints from neighbors and, he said, money from welfare recipients.

Internet cafe supporters complained a ban will cost jobs for more than 1,000 locations across Florida. But some House members, such as Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, preferred to regulate the businesses instead of banning.

"I don't think this House is going to approve 1,000 gambling locations in this state," Plakon said.

While a similar Senate bill with a ban faces a telling hearing Thursday, the ban also is entangled in the the destination casino resort debate. The Senate version of the destination casino bill allows internet cafes by setting up regulations for them to operate.