Florida Internet Cafe Ban Clears Senate, Heads to Governor's Desk Florida Internet Cafe Ban Clears Senate, Heads to Governor's Desk
Jeff Muceus, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

A pending ban on gaming devices in Florida’s popular internet cafes headed to desk of Governor Rick Scott late Thursday after clearing the state’s Senate on a 36-4 vote.

The measure, designated as Senate Bill 1030, cleared a Senate Rules Panel unanimously on Tuesday after a nearly identical version of the bill was approved by the state’s House last week.

The bill’s broad language defines many electronic devices as possible “slot machines” for gaming use, and its lack of language restricting its impact to commercial locations has caused worries for online-poker players and other e-gamers who fear the law could impact their activities as well.

Governor Scott has promised a review of the bill’s language before signing, especially after Florida’s Democratic Senate leadership threatened a procedural delay in the wake of the bill’s hasty construction. That proposed delay, in which Democrats wondered whether the sweeping ban would cause undue loss of jobs, was quickly dropped in the face of SB 1030’s bilateral support.

The bill was rushed through following a $300 million misappropriated-funds scandal involving a group called Allied Veterans of the World, which operated 49 of the internet cafes throughout Florida, offering video slots and other games. Revenue supposedly earmarked for veterans charities was instead siphoned off to Allied’s owners, in alleged violation of state law.

The bill’s quick passage came despite an impromptu protest by the Florida Adult Arcade and Bingo Association and the busing of at least 80 senior customers of the storefront arcades to Tallahassee, the state’s capital, to protest the pending passage of the measure. Reconciliation of minor differences between the two bills is not expected to cause delay in the signing.