By: Whitney Ray
Tallahassee, Fla. - Dozens of internet café owners and employees made the trip to Tallahassee today to fight for their jobs. The state legislature is moving to ban the sweepstakes businesses after a police investigation shut down 51 internet cafes and spawned the resignation of Florida’s Lieutenant Governor. As Whitney Ray tells us, before the bust, a ban on internet cafes was dead.
What a difference a week makes. Last Tuesday state lawmakers were in no rush to change Florida’s gaming laws. Now a bill is moving through the state legislature to close all internet cafes.
The quick action comes just days after investigators raided 51 internet cafes owned by Allied Veterans of the World. According to investigators, the charity made 300 million dollars, but gave just two percent to veterans.
By Monday morning the Senate Committee on Gaming was set to shut down all of Florida’s internet cafes.
Café owners and workers wore shirts asking senators to regulate, not eliminate their businesses. But supporters of the ban say quick action is needed.
“The time has come to terminate these and similar gaming operations around the state,” said Bill Bunkley with the Florida Baptist Convention.
“It’s not an ongoing gambling enterprise. It’s an ongoing criminal enterprise,” said Lobbyist Ron Book.
The owners, players and supporters of internet cafes testified for over an hour, but in the end they weren’t able to change even one vote.
After the vote, the bill’s sponsor told reporters, internet cafes are illegal right now, his bill would just clarify existing law.
“Gaming is illegal in the state of Florida unless it is otherwise carved out,” said Thrasher.
Friday the House Gaming Committee passed a similar ban. The bills could be ready for a floor vote by the end of the month.
The ban is effective upon becoming law, which means if both chambers pass it and the governor signs it, Internet cafes will be outlawed before the ink on the new law dries.