Within hours of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation going public, a leading senator said it's time the Legislature considered shutting down all Internet cafes in Florida. Carroll was questioned by law enforcement authorities as part of a broad racketeering investigation of a St. Augustine based non-profit that runs a string of Internet cafes.
"I'm going to suggest that we move a little faster now on that," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. "Maybe a ban. Now I believe that evidence has come out that indicates that these things are exactly what we thought they were. They've been corrupted. There's a problem with them."
In the past, Thrasher and other senators have favored a moratorium on Internet cafes, which would grandfather those already in existence. But Carroll's past work for Allied Veterans of the World may ratchet up the political support for tougher action in a year in which the Senate's No. 1 priority is ethics reform among elected officials.
Anti-gambling sentiment has been stronger in the House than in the Senate in recent years. The House has been more supportive of an Internet cafe ban and passed a ban in the 2011 session but the Senate refused to go along. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, remains a strong supporter of an Internet cafe ban. The House bill outlawing the cafes (HB 155) is sponsored by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami.
"It's been the largest expansion of gambling the state of Florida has ever had, and we never passed a law to do it," Weatherford said. "There's been a manipulation of the state's laws that have allowed these unregulated entities to pop up all over the state of Florida ... This clearly sheds light on what is really happening out there."
Said Weatherford: "My hope is our friends in the Senate will see this for what it is, and utilize the opportunity to do the right thing for Florida."
-- Steve Bousquet