Florida State Senator Pushes Moratorium on Internet Cafes

Casino Watch Focus Reported that the Florida Senate Gaming Committee plans to conduct a 2 year gambling study before any major gambling expansion will be passed.  It came at the heals of several local cities passing slot machine gambling expansion measures. Now, a Florida State Senator wants to continue the idea of researching before expanding by placing a moratorium on new internet cafes, while the issues can be fully studied.  These cafes essentially act in gray area of the law and have been very controversial.  A Florida NBC news affiliate reports:

Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher fleshed out his idea for a moratorium on Internet cafes, a proposal he floated without elaborating on it at the final meeting of the Senate’s gambling committee.

Legislators grappled with the issue of Internet cafes – which critics argue are illegal games similar to slot machines – in 2012 but were unable to come to an agreement. Some lawmakers want the businesses banned altogether; others simply want to regulate them.

The industry says it offers computerized versions of legal sweepstakes.

Thrasher said the idea behind the bill would be to essentially pause the rapidly-growing industry as legislators try to figure out a broader policy on gaming in Florida.

“Until we have a better feel for what we want to do globally, we ought to call time out,” Thrasher said.

 As a compromise alluded to by Senator Thrasher, the bill may need to simply prevent new internet cafes and allow existing ones to remain in business.  Florida’s social conservative seem to be backing such measures and are hoping the 2 year gambling study takes into account all the variables, economic and otherwise.  The Sunshine State News reports:

“We think that gambling is a vice,” Stemberger (president of the Florida Family Policy Council), says. “There’s no social good that comes from it, there’s crime associated with it, and addiction, and suicides. There’s families and marriages that break up because of it, and we just don’t think Florida needs to expand it any more than it already is.”

Stemberger and Bunkley (who represents the Florida Baptist Convention on the newly-formed Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) say their organizations will advocate that the Florida House’s two-year gambling review incorporate research on the potential social costs associated with the legalization of gambling, including increased rates of crime, addiction, and family breakdown — though the Senate Gaming Committee has already said it’s doing just that.

“We know from other states, for every dollar they take in gambling, there can be two to five dollars put out the back door with social costs, police protection, etc.,” Bunkley concurs. He’s proposing that the Legislature conduct research into how advertising for the Florida Lottery is directed (e.g., by way of billboards) and where Internet cafes are conducting their business, and to compare those findings with census records to see if low-income communities are being disproportionately targeted by public and private gaming interests.

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