Florida Governor Signs Law Banning Internet Gambling Cafes
Florida Governor Rick Scott quietly signed a bill into law on Wednesday that bans Internet cafes in the state that offer arcade-style gambling machines. The bill will go into effect immediately, meaning that the approximately one thousand storefront gambling parlors in business in the state will be facing rapid enforcement by local law agencies. Many have already begun to take moves toward closing their operations in recent weeks as the new law appeared imminent.
The cafes are ubiquitous in the state, where one can scarcely travel a few miles without encountering several of the establishments in strip malls. While the closure of these cafes will cause a not-unsubstantial number of Floridians to lose their jobs, residents who live near the cafes are largely not sorry to see them go, with many accusing them of taking money shamelessly from the pockets of senior citizens, a group that comprises a large portion of the state’s population.
Several hundred employees are said to be facing unemployment as a result of the new law, which will ban electronic “lookalike” casinos while also tightening restrictions on the arcade games. The legislation was passed quickly by Florida lawmakers after state and federal officials conducted a three year investigation into the Internet cafes that proliferated across the state due to what some describe as a loophole in the law, while others noted that legal ambiguity was to blame for the rapid growth of the industry.
Sheriff of Seminole County Don Eslinger has for years been trying to motivate authorities to crack down on the businesses, saying, “It wasn’t a loophole in the law. The law was complex, difficult and expensive to investigate — and this will certainly will enhance law enforcement efforts.”
The story of the illegal gambling parlors has been fraught with drama, even causing the former Lieutenant Governor of the state, Jennifer Carroll, to resign her position due to a prior affiliation with the largest operator of such establishments, Allied Veterans. Fifty-seven individuals associated with that company were arrested in connection to the case.
Last week Carroll remarked on her decision to leave her post, saying, “I thought it would be better to remove myself from being a distraction.”
For his part, Governor Rick Scott commended legislators for closing the loophole that will shutter the cafes. In a statement, Governor Scott said, “The Legislature did the right thing to crack down on illegal gaming operators.”
Those who wish to gamble in Florida are not left without options, however. The state does have tribal casinos as well as racetracks that offer some other forms of gambling, including card rooms.