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Bill To Ban Internet Cafes Advances in Florida Legislature as Opponents Call It a Job Killer

| January 17, 2012

Palm Coasters loves them, Palm Coast politicians a little less so. (FlaglerLive)

With critics likening them to storefront casinos, a House panel Today approved a proposal to ban Internet cafés that have opened in shopping centers across the state in recent years, including nearly a dozen in Palm Coast.

“It is gambling in every sense of the word,” said Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who is sponsoring the proposed ban (HB 3, also SB 428).

But opponents of Plakon’s bill argue that shutting down the cafés would cost thousands of jobs and say lawmakers should instead regulate the industry.

“At the core of this bill, what strikes me is the jobs,” said Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington.

The House Business & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee voted 10-5 to approve the bill, which comes amid a much-broader debate about gambling in Florida. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Thursday is slated to consider two Internet café bills, with one measure (SB 428) calling for a ban and another (SB 380) calling for regulation.

Also, the Senate committee approved a resort-casino bill last week that was stuffed with gambling-related issues, including regulation of Internet cafés.

An estimated 1,000 Internet cafés have opened in Florida during the past several years, with the industry saying it offers electronic sweepstakes-style games that are allowed under state law. But opponents say the games are computer versions of slot machines and that the cafés particularly target low-income people.

Plakon’s bill drew support Tuesday from law-enforcement officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, as well as from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a group connected to the Florida Baptist Convention.

But it also faces opposition, including from some veterans groups that receive money from the games. One such group, the non-profit Allied Veterans of the World, is a major player in the Internet café industry.

Laurie Lee, an attorney for International Internet Technologies, which licenses computer software to Allied Veterans facilities, told the subcommittee that each café employs eight to 13 people — which would roughly mean the industry has about 10,000 jobs in Florida.

Lee said the state should regulate the cafés, such as making sure computer software follows legal requirements and addressing café advertising that touts gambling. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she was worried that a ban would hurt charitable organizations.

“I think this is a situation that begs for regulation,” said Thompson, one of the dissenting votes in the subcommittee.

But Plakon likened regulation to giving “amnesty” to Internet cafés. Also, he argued that state regulation of the facilities could be considered an expansion of legalized gambling, which could jeopardize an agreement with the Seminole Indians that leads to the state receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from tribal-owned casinos.

Other supporters of the bill questioned the argument that it would lead to job losses. Some said the operations of Internet cafés are a policy issue that lawmakers need to address.

“It’s gambling,” said Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville. “You look at it — it’s gambling.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Bill To Ban Internet Cafes Advances in Florida Legislature as Opponents Call It a Job Killer”

  1. Dede Siebenaler via Facebook says:

    Our GOVERNMENT is taking us over, bit by bit. And, we are allowing it to happen! Sad!

  2. Angie says:

    The jobs, really??? What about the lives, families, marriages, etc RUINED by gambling? Funny how people cry about corporations making a profit in honest supply & demand businesses, but they turn a blind eye to the thugs behind the gambling industry who build their wealth at the expense of ruined lives and poor judgment. Shut them down! Gambling only brings depravity to our community.

  3. Lay says:

    Only a few of the stories that pop up when looking for background on Allied Veterans:

    It is surprising to me that so little is known about this group, other than the fact they have had frequent dust ups with the law and very little of what they bring in goes to charities. I urge you to read that first link.

    Nobody knows the full extent of the money coming in or where it is going. Their transactions are in cash, including employee payroll.

    This is gambling, pure and simple. If allowed to remain, it must be regulated and zoned away from residential areas.

  4. Betty Jo says:

    I think it’s funny to read this happening in Florida while at the same time there was a NY Times article printed today about how other states are looking to do just the opposite. They want it, want to regulate it and tax it. I’m for that option vs the state shutting it down because of a deal they made with the Indians.

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Even other more dangerous bills are advancing in the Florida legislature than this one:
    Out with the new and in with the old!
    Union Busting is back with the 2012 Legislative Session
    The Florida Legislature is back at its’ old games and putting you and your family’s safety at risk. Two bills, SB 7170 and SB 7172, are being rushed through by Governor Rick Scott and the Legislative leadership in an attempt to silence Floridians’ right to participate in Democracy.
    These bills will:
    Eliminate thousands of jobs!
    Risk public safety by turning over prison security to the lowest bidder!
    Eliminate accountability for prison administration!
    BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…SB 7170 will
    Allow the Legislature to privatize any state service with no substantive review!
    Eliminate any transparency from the process, allowing Legislative leaders to auction off Florida with no deliberation, cost benefit analysis or public input!
    The big out-of-state special interests who are pushing these bills gave huge campaign contributions to politicians and their allies in Tallahassee. This is a clear attempt by the Legislature to return the favor by putting your family’s safety at risk so private contractors can make huge profits off of your tax dollars.




    Tell the members in the Senate Rules Committee “NOT to be a rubber stamp for Governor Scott. Tell them to protect your community and all Floridians, NOT line the pockets of contractors and political donors. Tell them that privatization doesn’t solve the problems facing Florida’s working families.”

    Senate Rules Committee Members

    John Thrasher SD 8 (850) 487-5030 JD Alexander SD 17 (850) 487-5044

    Anitere Flores SD 38 (850)487-5130 Don Gaetz SD 4 (850) 487-5009
    Andy Gardiner SD 9 (850)487-5047 Dennis Jones SD 13 (850) 487-5065

    Joe Negron SD 28 (850) 487-5088 Garrett Richter SD 37 (850) 487-5124
    Stephen Wise SD 5 (850) 487-5027 Larcenia Bullard SD 39 (850) 487-5127
    Gwen Margolis SD 35 (850) 487-5121 Gary Siplin SD 19 (850) 487-5190
    Chris Smith SD 29 (850) 487-5112

  6. Gia says:

    No Internet cafe in Palm Coast

  7. eyeonflagler says:

    GET RID OF THEM!! They are hotbeds for crime and curruption! Last week a knife fight in front of cafe on Belle Terre in broad daylight!! Sit at the BP and watch what goes on, it will shock you! This is gambling plain and simple. Please read the links below from LAY. No good can come from these places.

    “In its 2010 tax returns, Allied Veterans’ administrative arm listed its revenue as $2.4 million. But the nonprofit didn’t list how much money its 40 affiliates, or cafes, raked in that year, said Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy.”

    • Begonia says:

      Sit outside the one on Palm Harbor Parkway and you can watch the drug deals going on outside. I don’t think this is the type of business we want to attract to Palm Coast or the reputation the city needs right now.

      But if it is, then these cafes need to be moved away from residential neighborhoods. How about right down the street from the Police station?

  8. Geezer Butler says:

    I understand now – I’m going to run a numbers operation out of my home. I have the defense of a legal precedent, which allows gambling (and all its ills) in your local shopping center.

    How about a grow-house? I’ll help keep FPL swaddled in money, I’ll employ some down-and-out citizens (we got lots of those), and maybe I can single-handedly revive the Quaalude craze of the seventies! I can make them in a tub! ‘Lude houses! Wow….. $$$$$$$$$$!!!

    How about a new whore-house in Town Center? Heck, Town Center is basically empty.
    Let’s give the streetlights there a reason to illuminate.

    Don’t shut down my new businesses – IT WOULD BE A JOB KILLER.

    *But keep on harassing people who hold garage sales. They are a blight on our community.
    Go get ’em, code enforcement!

    Worse comes to worse – I’ll have to move my rackets to a commercial location. (code enforcement and all)

  9. Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

    This is what happens when only 5% of the city bothers to vote. Stupidity is killing us. We are just too damn lazy to care.

  10. Grin4Smilez says:

    I’m a realist. I don’t vote because I know that our voting system, much like the “electoral college”, has nothing to do with our opinions or what we’re voting for. It’s all about which social circles you’re in. No matter what BS this county or this country feeds us, we’re not actually voting for anything. They let us have a dance or two with our thumbs in our a$$ strictly for formality purposes.

    The people running the entire system of “voting” are the ones making the decisions. Sure, our opinions are given half a glance.

    Don’t be a fool. Voting doesn’t mean anything anymore.

    • Layla says:

      Grin4Smilez: It does if everybody shows up. Nothing will change if you don’t. You giving up? I’m not. In 2010, Americans managed to vote a major portion of the Congress OUT.

      We’re on a roll. I’m not stopping til they’re all sent to the unemployment lines. Did you know it is possible for us to vote out all 425 members of the US House of Representatives this year? They are all up for reelection. And they serve a lifetime career because they know that people like you will give up. Don’t let them win.

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