House panel to take up bill today shutting down Internet cafes

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The House Select Committee on Gaming will take up a bill Friday that seeks to shut down Internet cafes, with the measure pointing to the “deleterious effects of the proliferation of electronic machines and devices used for maintaining an ongoing place of gambling or gaming,” according to a staff analysis posted online Thursday.

Lawmakers are rushing to pass the measure (HB 155) after a statewide crackdown this week led to the arrests of 57 people and the closing of at least 49 Internet cafes, amid allegations of crimes such as racketeering and money laundering. The investigation also prompted the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who did consulting work in the past for a group that was targeted in the crackdown.

The House bill would bar electronic or mechanical devices that are used in relation to certain types of charitable drawings and game promotions, closing avenues that Internet café operators have used to argue that their computerized games are legal. Also, the bill would update the definition of slot machines, according to the analysis.

The Senate Gaming Committee is expected to move toward shuttering Internet cafes during a meeting Monday.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

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.