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Florida internet cafe owners' fears grow after Senate bill passes in gaming committee

4:19 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Internet cafes may face an outright ban in Florida now that Senate Bill 1030 is moving forward. The Senate Gaming Committee voted 11-0 to pass the bill, which would close down all internet cafes immediately after becoming law. 

"The legislature has been dealing with this issue for several years. This is not something that has just come up but its something that has really risen to the level of our concern since the events of last week and it has to do with the proliferation of internet cafes," said State Senator John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

The bill, proposed by Thrasher, has one more committee stop in the Senate before it can be voted for on the Senate floor. It was originally proposed as a moratorium, but following the alleged illegal gambling and racketeering charges against the Allied Veterans of the World Cafes, both the House and Senate are moving to make changes quickly.

"I think we need an outright ban," said Thrasher. 

The bill has received criticism from internet cafe owners who say they are paying the price even though they've been playing by the rules. 

"They're moving very quick and because of all the publicity that it's getting, those guys are getting their heads filled up, yeah let's close them up -- wait a minute, you're talking about 30,000 people unemployed that are already hurting," said Elia Hawara, owner of Royal Times Sweepstakes in Jacksonville.

SB 1030 follows HB-155 which passed the House Select Gaming Committee on Friday in a 15-1 vote. That bill proposes an outright ban on all electronic gambling devices.

"I don't think everybody else should have to pay for it. Like I said, we enjoy coming here and I enjoy coming here," said Twila Porter, customer.

There are over 50 internet cafes on the First Coast. The bills still have to pass two more committees before reaching the House and Senate floors.

First Coast News

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