Ban on Internet Cafes moves forward

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Despite arguments that the bill would eliminate jobs and hurt veterans’ groups, a House committee Wednesday approved a ban on Internet cafes that have popped up across the state in recent years, reports the News Service of Florida. The Economic Affairs Committee voted 12-6 to approve HB 3, which supporters say is needed to eliminate storefront “casinos” that offer computerized games similar to slot machines. The Internet café industry contends it offers sweepstakes-style games that are legal. Rep. Mike Horner, a Kissimmee Republican who voted for the bill, said he visited an Internet café and that customers clearly thought they were gambling. “I can tell you, there is no café-ing going on, there is no Internet-ing going on,” Horner said. But veterans groups are concerned the bill would reduce game-related revenues that they use to provide services to veterans. Also, opponents say closing the cafes would eliminate an estimated 13,000 jobs. “These are 13,000 private sector jobs,” said Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach. “I’m wondering, why would we want to do that?” The House and the Senate have taken different stances on the issue, with a Senate committee approving a bill that would regulate — not ban — the cafes. Democrats on the House panel Wednesday also urged regulation. But House bill sponsor Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, likens the idea to giving “amnesty” to the businesses.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.