‘Internet Cafes’ Become Illegal

(Source: The Associated Press, 4/10/13)

Up to 1,000 strip-mall parlors where people can play slot-like computer games became illegal Wednesday in Florida, with the governor signing a ban on the heels of a federal investigation into a charity that authorities say was an illegal gambling front.

The law took effect immediately after Gov. Rick Scott signed it, roughly a month after nearly 60 people were arrested in connection with the racketeering investigation into Allied Veterans of the World. The arrests prompted the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who did consulting work for the group but has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The Legislature and governor acted with dizzying speed, leaving many questions as to the law’s impact and how the centers known as Internet cafes would react. The ban is also expected to directly affect adult amusement arcades that cater to senior citizens.

Scott, who quietly signed the bill behind closed doors, called the ban the “right thing to do for our state.”

Enforcing the ban will fall to local authorities. But some arcade operators said they weren’t taking any chances.

Johnny Figueria, manager of the Tropicana Bingo & Arcade in Hialeah, said nearly 100 machines were shut down Tuesday as a precaution until he and other arcade managers understood the law.

“This law will affect everyone here,” he said in Spanish. “There are people who come here in the morning to play bingo and then stay later to play the machines until their son comes to pick them up, so they won’t be home alone.”

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