« Cancer fairness act wins Senate support | Main | Legislature moves to end local ‘living wage,’ sick time laws »

Senate votes 36-4 to ban Internet cafes

After a rigorous debate, the Florida Senate sent to the governor on Thursday a fast-tracked bill designed to clarify that slot-like gambling machines operated in Internet cafes, South Florida's adult arcades and Miami's maquintas are outlawed in Florida.

The measure is a reaction to a federal and state investigation into Allied Veterans of Florida that has led to 57 arrests for illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering. Police allege that that the pseudo veterans group made $300 million in profits by operating the illegal machines, but allegedly donated only 2 percent of its proceeds to charity. 

Legislators responded by concluding that the vague state law that allowed the gaming centers to operate needed to be clarified to give law enforcement more tools to shut down the illegal machines that have proliferated in strip malls throughout the state.

The Senate voted 36-4 for HB 155, which was approved two weeks ago 108-7 by the Florida House. Gov . Rick Scott has indicated he will sign the bill and it becomes effective upon becoming law. 

Voting against the bill were Democratic Sens. Joe Abruzzo of West Palm Beach, Maria Sachs of Delray Beach, Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Jeremy Ring of Margate.

Legislators also have quickly attempted to distance themselves from the fake charity after having received more than $1.4 million from Allied Veterans in the last two years, according to a Herald/Times analysis. They have announced they would donate thousands of dollars in contributions to legitimate veterans groups and other charities.

The Senate rejected three late-filed amendments by Miami Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portila and Rene Garcia to shield the slots-like games operated by adult arcades. 

Senate proponents insisted that the bill is not intended to shut down legitimate adult arcades, who are allowed to operate under a provision in state law that recognizes games that are considered a sweepstakes or are games of skills.

"It's not my intention or anybody’s intention to keep anybody from doing what they’re been doing if theyr’e doing it legally,'' said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the bill's sponsor. "This bill is about stopping illegal gambling in the State of Florida."

But adult arcade operators, who have stocked their centers with the computerized games and look and feel like slot-machines warned that the ruling will spell the death knell for their amusement centers.

“We are disappointed and disheartened by the Florida Senate’s dismissal of amendments to protect hundreds of law-abiding, tax-paying arcades,'' said Gale Fontaine, president of the Florida Arcade Association in a statement. "Today’s action means amusement arcades, which have been operating legally for almost 30 years, will be forced to shut down. In addition to affecting Florida’s more than 200 senior arcades, children’s amusement arcades also face similar problems under this legislation."

 But Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, said the bill was intended to clarify the law, not hurt law-abiding companies.

"This bill is not intended in any shape manner or form to shut down any legitimate business model,'' he said.

Richter will launch a statewide tour this summer to study gambling in Florida and make sweeping updates to the existing gaming laws. 

 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

FlaRiptide

Was Governor Scott paid off by the Seminole Indian casinos? I'd hazard a guess that the majority of Floridian's enjoyed having the internet cafes. They are an enjoyable activity for adults. Yes, they should be regulated, but not put out of business.

geo smith

shut them all down.

Zeenat

Plz don't ban the sweepstake n do not every one for somebodys mistake.

Zeenat

Plz don't shut down sweepstake it's will effect our family , we have to file bankruptcy we have bought this bussiness by paying goodwill n got money from credit cards plz think of us they r many like us.who bought this bussiness shuting down is not solution. Regulate them but plz do not punish everyone for somebody's mistake.

mike

How sad. The Indian reservation pay no taxes but have gambling. so the bill won't stop gambling just revenue.who was paid off? Now just gamble on your home computer.

Mary

Lottery games are legal as they are regulated for fairness and legitimacy. Adult arcades are making a fortune from seniors who play these games without realizing that the odds are manipulated by the owners. The machines are callibrated by the owners and they are adjusted regularly. How fair is that?? Seniors are being taken advantage of. These adult arcades make $500,000+ profit every year without any regulatory body to oversee them. They have been in existence in my county for over 10 years. It's about time they are regulated - they are gambling arcades started with prizes of gift cards, but now slowly cash is being given out.

FlaRiptide

I'm sure the Seminole Indian casinos were losing customers and money because the internet cafes were so convenient and people did not need to leave their home town to enjoy gambling. Though, these internet cafes are not used by most customers as a means to gamble for big money. They are a form of entertainment. For $20 adults, inclusive of many seniors, could have several hours of fun, get a free meal and free drinks. With the high cost of other forms of entertainment these days, now there will be one less reason to get out of the house to go do something fun.

But, it is okay to have people spend their money on the lottery where the odds of winning are very unlikely. Millions to one winner is ludicrous. I'd rather see 1000 people win $100 than to have 1 person win $1,000,000.

john tourbin

im a snow bird, and may sell with the closing of the sweep stakes. not to much todo for old people who feel safe, meet new friends and get alittle food. work this out, bring to a vote of the people. laws are made for the people ,some abuse it, majority obey. tax if you must, regulate and do your back ground checks, but let senior have fun for the little time left.john tourbin,1 716 425 6134, 138 travel park drive,spring hill fl 34607 or 345 south 4th street, lewiston ny 14092-1525. lionjohn1941@gmail.com

Sharon Brown


My husband a veteran, purchased an internet cafe nine months ago in good faith. We went with a service provider and purchased the licences for a $250,000 sweepstakes that runs for a year. In nine months we have not even made our investment back. Not even enough to pay the overhead. We do not regulate or have control over the sweepstakes. It is what it is period. The interesting thing is that when a customer purchases internet time they do not have to sit down and reveal their sweepstakes one at a time, they have the option of revealing all at once when they make their purchase or sit down and reveal one at a time. I would say that 99.9% of the customers choose to get away from it all and relax and socialize. We are more than an Internet Cafe, we are a social club and opperate under very high standards. We have dinner, tournaments, parties etc. Our customers are not out to make a lot of money, they are looking for an escape, relaxation and meeting new people. I was allway's taught to look before you leap and don't be too quick to judge. Allied brought this on themselfs and it hurts that we have to suffer the consequenses. How did they get away with it for so long? Interesting enough I read an article recently about a father and son, owners of a Conveince Store who were arrested because of illegal activitym,money laundering etc. Will all the Convience Stores now be shut down now?

ran676@yahoo.com

i work on games and in my opinion you have a better chance of winning on adult games than casino games A casino game shreds you of earnings very fast....it can deplete your twenty dollar budget in seconds. many people play in adult arcades and make a day of it. They come for lunch or dinner or just to hang out and a lot of the arcades will match every tokken you will insert in the machine, please tell me what establishiment will do that. Whenyour in a casino that is backed by the state they will shower you with drinks. (This is a common practice in Atlantic City, NJ)

Bee Lizaso

It's just unbelievable! Senator Thrasher, and the rest of the senators who voted to pass this bill, I hope you guys watch yourself on tv and see how inconsistent you guys are. That you wanna hear what the PEOPLE OF FLORIDA SAY. What other people rather than the seniors are we talking about here who went out of their way from different part of the state.
How sincere are we to thank and acknoledge all this seniors and veterans who fight for for us and traveled a long way. guys should have said something better than those words you guys explained coz even a 5th grader won't buy this stories mr senators! What a disgrace!
Let me tell you my testimony, I am a 46 year old who drives my aunt almost everyday in an adult arcade, and thats where I found out and have observed the reason why this seniors go to this place, it's not about the game, it's the enjoyment, fun, entertainment of vocalist and performers, friends to talked to, dance with, have lunch and dinner with that no place can replace. Even myself become very involve because of the time when my aunt drove by herself, everyone is looking for me, since then I promise myself that I will always attend not only to being my aunt there but to see this elderly enjoying themselves .
Well after all it was said and done, I
Just wasting my time and effort anyways for people like you who pretend to listen and do something. I am just addressing this to people who's concern and not to senators. I just have a question, why did you guys chose to be ellected for this position? For what? People know! We know. Thank you....bee

Adrianne

I hope you realize that in shutting down adult arcades where our senior citizens go to socialize is going to impact many different scopes, the seniors themselves who will have no where to go to socialize, the taxes the state collects from all the legally operated arcades, the businesses that the arcades buy the gift cards from, not to mention the vast amount of places they can spend their visa cards and most importantly all the people you are putting out of work. My boyfriend and I recently acquired jobs at these arcades. I have a young child and you are ripping away our income and in essence threatening my home and my child when we did nothing wrong. One company did horrible things now our communities our seniors our local businesses and our homes are about to be destroyed. How easy is it for you to go home to your nice cozy house knowing that you maybe putting families on the streets and ripping them apart? If I have no home for my child the state will take him away but the state is taking away my job!!!!!! How can you sleep at night? Do you even care? You move so fast to shut down an industry that causes no harm before getting ALL the facts because on company made the wrong choices and it cast a shadow on a politician. I wont even qualify for unemployment because we haven't been there the required amount of time to qualify!!! I just got my house and now you want to take it away. Why are you punishing us? What did we do? What did our local communities do? What did the amusement arcades do? Do you have any complaints or allegations filed against them? I think you forget who elects you and who donates to your campaigns. Or maybe you just don't give a flying f&@$. Will you provide an alterative place for these people to go? Or will you let them sit home and be bored and unhappy? Will you pay bills for the families who will be put out of work or let them lose everything for your political pride? I guess we all already know the answers. I hope while you go to your poker games and gamble or go to your nice home you think about how many people you hurt for no reason. Eat your steak and think of my child who wont be able to eat. Hug your children and think of the people that may lose theirs because they lost their homes because you took their jobs FOR NO REASON. You didn't even let the PEOPLE vote. So thank you for destroying all the good these adult arcades have done for so many and sleep well at night.

cher

These places operate within the law even if some say its a grey area! That's why it was regulated and taxed in Jacksonville and Orange Park Florida in 2010.Every American has played monopoly sweepstakes at McDonald's by Buying a drink,burger and fry for $7.00 and receiving a pull off ticket on the food packaging,they then choose to pull off the tab and participate in the sweepstakes revealing if it is a winner or not when pulled off the burger,fry and drink.These internet cafes operate the same way under the same laws.Customers purchase internet time and with the internet time purchased they receive free entries (like the pull off tabs on the food packages) in the users account when the internet time is purchased,they then use the internet time and surf the web(or at Mcd's they eat the burger, fry's and drink) They can CHOOSE to participate in the sweepstakes promotion or not its the customers choice. If they choose to participate they can see what they won by playing the games/revealers. The computer program opens the entries and displays on the computer screen if its a winner (like your fingers do at McDonalds and then you place on the game board).ALL Sweepstakes no matter who has it is the same gray area!!!!!!!!!!!!! What makes it okay for national chains to do and NOT okay for local small business owners??????

Sha.Gutschwager

Please,all seniors and all others who enjoyed going to arcades for whatever reason,remember when it comes time to vote.Lets get rid of these politicians starting with the governor.Let them be jobless just like the many people who were employed by these adult arcades.

Leah

These people who are so selfish and only think of themselves need to be voted out. They are supposedl to care about the people of florida who voted for them. I work at an arcade and I love my job. We are a family and we take very good care of the seniors. These selfish people just destroyed the lives of many people and they just don't care. How can a business be legal and then they change the law and get away with this. We live in America not a nation where they are ruled by the government. Vote them out

Bee Lizaso

SENATORS! look at all this comments that are posted and check the time they were posted. This are some of the sleepless people who are affected by your wrong decisions. 'if it's a duck, it's a duck!'... 'if it's a duck.. It's a dock'. Sen. Garrett Richter chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, said the bill was intended to clarify the law, not hurt law-abiding companies. Isn't it ironic what he just mention and yet dismissed amendment for arcades not to be affected. Oh well that actually a smart move and a wise move not to hurt the business law but eventually this entity will shutdown because of the insertion of tokens or coin you want to impose! Wow! Isn't that a good exercise for this elders while playing! PEOPLE, remember all this names at election time!!! RICHTER, THRASHER, REP TRUJILLO who has no knowledge at all and a lot who receives payroll with the Seminole. Remember this names, who has done nothing Good in our community, who has no heart considering the ammendments for adult arcade not to be affected by the law, who don't even care what the people says, who are narrow minded and just care about their personal bested interest!!!!!!!!!!! NO MATTER HOW YOU TRY TO MIX ALL THOSE WORDINGS WRITTEN FROM A-Z AND WOULD SOUND LIKE, LOOK LIKE AS IF IT WERE FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF OR NOT TO AFFECT OR NOT INTENTED TO HURT THE ADULT ARCADE, THE BOTTOM LINE STILL SHOWS THAT YOU ARE DESTROYING IT FOR YOUR PERSONAL INTEREST AND NOT FOR THE BEST OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA!!!!!

Rachel

Please go to http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/ tell him all these things your saying. I agree fully with what most of you are saying. My mother in law so to speak owns an Internet cafe and I for one don't care what people think it is what it is and you can't juge a group by one faulty person/organization/company whatever. This is not right by far. I love so much to see our seniors and even middle aged and young adult citizens come in after work before work after their morning routine of coffee newspaper breakfast and doctors visits. It makes me sick to think that people could be so heartless to shut these down. I completely agree with follow the rules and operate properly that goes with anything but why pick in the people doing nothing wrong. These senior citizens you claim we prey on come in WILLINGLY. they are not by any means dumb. It's relaxation for them and a way up pass time away. Let me tell you jeopardy gets boring after a while. Not only are they customers and regulars and new comers but we become a big family we talk about daily life we check on each other and each others kids and grand kids we genuinely care about these people and love to see them happy. They have worked their butts off all their lives so they could retire rehab and enjoy the rest of their life's. Shutting Internet cafes down takes that away and then what do they have?

Bee Lizaso

Sen. Thrasher, this message is really intended for you! You have mention a million times to the public that it was not the intention of the bill to hurt adult arcade, and that you gave millions of unreasonable excuses by opposing the amendment regarding insertion of coin that it is very obvious. If the intended bill is to bans Internet cafe, then why you disagree of those amendment. To avoid loopholes? Loopholes for what? What other business are running that might create a loophole if Internet is banned! Or maybe you want to make it harder for the elders to play and eventually suffer from your inconsiderate decision! Isn't it that adult arcade is legal? Arcade are the only one that uses bill acceptors and not Internet cafe so it really transparently that you are against it!

If you want to change it change it in a right way as WHAT SEN. GALVANO was saying!!!
EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT EVER REASON YOU SAY IT'S VERY OBVIOUS!!! VERY OBVIOUS!!! MILLIONS ALL OVER THE STATE KNOWS WHAT YOU'RE DOING!!!
it's all for bested interest and not for the best of Florida!!!!!!!!

m.Reynolds

You people in Tallahassee Florida are a group of hypocrites,you are upset because you don't have a hand in the pockets of the internet cafes.stop acting as though you are concerned about the seniors losing their money when healthcare has gone to the dogs and we have to pay out of pocket for generic drugs.IT amazes me you senators and hypocrites how everything that suppose to be good for us is to costly for us to buy.why don't you work on getting better benefits for people,stop wasting time on banning internet cafes.most of you don't have a clue because you live in a bubble.most people go to the internet cafes go for entertainment,we know we won't get rich.how much did the Seminoles pay you?

Disco

I Think It Is Who Gets Paid Off. It has always been
that way and it will never stop. You Take the game power ball. They Post the raise when no one wins but
do you know how much they really took in ???

Bee Lizaso

Do you remember friends the time before election when Gov. Rick Scott went out of his way and visited a adult arcade and asking for the elders support on his campaign. During this moment, we will see my friends how true is he with his word!

The comments to this entry are closed.