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State Senate Panel Passes Ban on Internet Gambling Cafes

Image: Internet Cafe, Florida Today
Image: Internet Cafe, Florida Today

March 19, 2013 | WMFE - The Senate Gaming Committee passed a bill Monday that would close so-called Internet cafes in Florida. Supporters of the bill say it's designed to close a loophole in state law that allowed unregulated gambling rooms across the state.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Senator John Thrasher of St. Augustine, said the move was partially motivated by last week's announcement of 57 arrests in an investigation into Allied Veterans of the World, a chain of Internet cafes.

“Unfortunately last week, there were some events that happened that forced us to look at this issue.” Thrasher said.  “I intend to continue to look at it and I think what’s happening in the State of Florida is simply an enhancement of illegal gambling in the state of Florida.”

The committee’s vote was unanimous despite pleas from Internet café owners who asked lawmakers to consider the impact on their jobs and families.

Tami Patel owns the "Lucky Duck 2" Internet cafe in Spring Hill, north of Tampa. Patel asked the panel to slow down and not put them out of business because of the actions of others.

“If you’ve got one bad seed, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s a bad seed. If you have a bad hamburger at McDonald’s, are you gonna shut down Burger King or Wendys?” Patel asked. “If you are going to regulate, just give us and opportunity to show you that we’re not illegal.” 

Patel and other café owners urged the lawmakers to regulate the industry rather than eliminate it.

The Senate bill is expected to be heard in at least one more committee before heading to the full Senate for a floor vote.   The House is expected to vote on its bill today.

Governor Rick Scott has indicated he’ll sign legislation to close the Internet cafes. 


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