News Section: State Government
Internet Cafes Find Friends in Florida Senate
BRADENTON – Though municipalities, law enforcement agencies, religious groups and the Florida Chamber of Commerce had lobbied hard for the demise of Internet Cafes, storefront casinos that operate through a loophole in the state's sweepstakes rules, it looks as if they might not only survive the 2012 session, but see new regulations put in place that could ensure their long-term existence.
While some lawmakers are pushing a ban that passed a house committee, and it also looked as though the businesses might get served up in a compromise to allow casino gambling expansion, the Senate passed a bill in committee this week that would provide new regulations, allowing them to remain in operation.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee voted 8-1 in favor of the bill, just one day after the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee voted 10-5 to ban them. The day before that, Gov. Rick Scott said he didn't think they should be legal and doubted they would survive the session.
The cafes sell phone cards that are used for Internet time they can use to play gambling games. Winnings are deposited to their account. Other businesses dubbed "adult arcades," use slot machines that pay off in gift certificates. The variations have led to an acknowledgment that they must at least be regulated with rules intended for their purpose, rather than promotional drawings and raffles, as is the case currently. Just like casino expansion, the GOP led chambers of the legislature are split on the issue, largely along the same lines.