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Arcade owners hire constitutional lawyer Bruce Rogow, prepare for legal challenge

Just hours after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law legislation that immediately outlawed machines operated by Internet cafes and senior arcades in Florida, more than 100 members of the Florida Arcades Association met in Pompano Beach with constitutional law expert Bruce Rogow and prepared to take the state to court.

"I think that there is probably no choice but to file a lawsuit," Rogow told the Associated Press after the 4 p.m. meeting called by Gale Fontaine, head of the arcades association.

Rogow said he believes that in their haste to give law enforcement additional tools to crackdown on illegal machines at Internet cafes throughout the state and maquinitas parlors in Miami, lawmakers also targeted arcade operators with vaguely-worded language that he considers arbitrary and irrational.

"It's not that they made these machines illegal; they just had to slow them down and hobble them,'' Rogow told the Herald/Times on Wednesday.

Rogow, an attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, said he believes there are several flaws in the law Florida lawmakers passed in reaction to the federal and state probe into Internet cafes operated by Allied Veterans of the World.

For example, the law imposes a series of requirements that attempt to slow the play of the game on arcade machines, but appear to have no rationale legal basis, he said. Among the new requirements: the arcades may only use machines that operate using only coins, not dollar bills. The law prohibits casino-style games but does not describe them and it bans giving gift cards as prizes but allows for merchandise.

"Are gift cards merchandize?'' Rogow asked. "They are exchangeable for merchandise."

In a message to arcade owners, Fontaine said the meeting would be open only to members and said that anyone who attended must join the organization. The group is asking arcade owners, whose financial future is now in jeopardy, to contribute to a legal fund to pay for Rogow's expenses.

Broward County is the epicenter of the adult arcade industry with two companies that manufacturer and distribute the machines based there, as well as several  successful senior arcades.

Manufacturers have said they are attempting to work out a way to retrofit their machines to comply with the law at the same time they contemplate a lawsuit.

They have asked members to find examples of law enforcement engaging in selective enforcement of the law -- allowing illegal machines at restaurants, retail stores, airports, skating rinks and other venues while forcing arcades that cater to seniors to close down. They want members to photograph the questionable machines and file complaints to police to underscore the impact of the new law.