The president of the Senate and the speaker of the House both said Wednesday that the cafes should be shut down, and a bill doing that is likely to be heard on the House floor as soon as next week. It would almost assuredly pass there and in the Senate quickly thereafter.
Legislative leaders said they wanted the ban hours after state and federal officials announced a massive investigation into the industry, a probe that also led Wednesday to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who has done consulting work for the organization at the center of that probe.
House Speaker Will Weatherford said the House will take up a bill to ban the storefront businesses next week. Senate President Don Gaetz also said he would “fully support such a ban.”
Gov. Rick Scott last year expressed support for banning Internet cafes. But he did not take such a direct stance when asked about it during a news conference Wednesday.
“I think that issue’s on the table,” Scott said. “I want to work with the House and the Senate to see if that is something we ought to be doing.”
Law enforcement officials earlier in the day announced a sweeping probe into an Internet café chain operating under the umbrella of a supposed veteran’s charity, but also said the investigation could include other companies in the industry.
The revelation of the widespread probe also led industry lobbyists to jump ship, leaving the cafes with few friends at the Capitol.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and several others said at a press conference in Orlando that a three-year investigation revealed an alleged sophisticated racketeering and money laundering scheme involving 49 centers in 23 Florida counties.
The organization at the center of the investigation is a veterans charity group called Allied Veterans of the World, which purported to be using money raised to assist veterans.
Carroll and her firm 3N and JC, at a minimum served as a public relations consultant to the company in 2009 and 2010 while she was in the House.
The officials declined to discuss any role that Carroll may have played or the potential that other elected officials could still be in the investigative crosshairs.