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Ban on Internet cafes passes House, but called 'stone-cold dead' in Senate

The House passed a proposal that would outlaw hundreds of Internet cafes currently operating in Florida, but similar legislation is all but dead in the Senate.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, sponsored HB 3, which would crack down on more than 1,000 Internet café locations.

 Most Democrats voted against the bill, saying it saying it would put an estimated 13,000 people out of work and hurt veterans organizations, some of which use video gaming machines. 

Rep. George Moriatis, R-Fort Lauderdale, compared Internet cafes to the state’s pill mill problem, which legislators attempted to tackle last year.

Rep. Alan Williams, a Democrat from Tallahassee, pushed back against that comparison, saying that his city has regulated the cafes, and many of them give back to the community.

Pill mills “were killing people,” Williams said. “Before we try and say lets shut down these into cafes altogether, let’s take a more reasoned approach.” 

The comparisons continued.

Plakon, who described Internet cafes as a place where violent shootouts and murders sometimes take place, compared the Internet cafes to “crack cocaine.”

The companion bill has not advanced in the Senate, and there’s little chance that Internet cafes will be banned this year.

Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, said the bill was dead on arrival in the Senate, and Thursday’s vote was only a political move.

“This bill is stone-cold dead when it hits the Senate,” said Saunders.“I do think it’ll pass [the House] today. Why? Because it gives people an opportunity to go back home and say, ‘I voted against gambling.’”

Plakon was not ready to stop fighting for the bill, which passed the House on a 72-43 vote.

“I challenge the Senate,” he said. “I hope they put up some solution to this.”