The Legislature essentially banned such businesses last year, but some continue to operate under different guises. At one point at least seven of the gambling parlors had been operating in Palm Coast, but none in Flagler Beach or the unincorporated part of Flagler County.
A FlaglerLive reporter, $50 in hand, made a tour of Palm Coast’s Internet cafes, only to find most of them closed already, and a mournful atmosphere at two that were open, not long before a bill banning the small gambling halls was sent to Gov. Rick Scott Thursday.
Gov. Rick Scott will sign legislation prohibiting the gaming at Internet cafés, his office said Thursday, following the Senate’s Senate’s 36-4 passage of a bill that flew through the Legislature spurred by an on-going racketeering investigation, and pushed by Sen. John Thrasher, who represents Flagler County.
Florida is quick on the trigger to ban Internet cafes, which have never killed anyone, but is doing nothing to rein in the state’s worship of guns, while 191 people have been killed by firearms in this state alone since the Newtown massacre.
Palm Coast at one point had nearly a dozen such businesses. Last week it had seven. This week, according to Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, the number was down to three, as several of them closed pre-emptively.
The vote moves the Senate closer to outlawing the cafes and arcades, a proposal that was approved by the House last year but never reached the Senate floor. The proposal drew concerns about the potential impact on other amusement games used by charities and amusement arcades.
Carroll’s political career appears all but finished. Making matters worse for the former Navy lieutenant commander, she will be remembered for her involvement with Allied Veterans of the World, a group that authorities say held itself out as a charity for veterans but actually was a gambling operation that enriched a handful of people.
The new law would end a gray area in state statutes used by operators of Internet cafes that the games are contests of skill and that the contests are similar to regulated sweepstakes offerings by places like McDonalds, Coca Cola, Chucky Cheese and churches.
Sen. John Thrasher, an influential senator who represents Flagler County, and who has sought to place a moratorium on new Internet cafes, said Wednesday that criminal allegations of racketeering and other wrongdoing in the industry should spur lawmakers to close the storefront businesses.
As Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies were serving a search warrant on the Internet Cafe in the Home Depot shopping center, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll was resigning in connection with the scandal, which has led to Allied officials’ arrests.