Arcades like Dave & Busters and Chuck E Cheese will no longer be in violation of state law when they operate their coinless games under a bill that won unanimous support Wednesday in the Senate Gaming Committee.
The bill, PCB 668 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, is intended to fix a law passed by legislators last year that outlawed Internet Cafes but snagged family amusement centers in the process. The groups organized, pleaded with lawmakers to revise the law and urged local police not to enforce it against them. Legislators returned with bills to revise the ban.
Now, skeptics say, the remedy could cause another round of troubles for the state’s porous gambling laws.
Marc Dunbar, a gaming law expert and lobbyist for the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, told the Senate committee that the bill could allow clever operators to use holes in the law to develop technology that could bring a new round of electronic games to Florida’s strip malls, and police would be powerless to stop them.
If this bill passes in its current form, without some state regulator to enforce it, he said that illegal operators will be popping up across the state and “law enforcement are essentially playing a game of whack-a-mole.”
The bill revises the definition of an amusement game and allows them to be placed in arcades, truck stops, bowling centers, hotels and restaurants. It removes the requirement that operators have 50-games in their centers and it now allows players to use different types of currency — tokens, cards or coupons — instead of just coins to operate the games. It raises the total prize per game from 75 cents to $5.25, and allows for prizes valued at up to $50.