Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the Florida gambling dens known as internet cafes. These cafes are essentially unlicensed mini slot parlors/casinos that represent danger to Florida families. Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida prosecutors, in a multi-agency investigaton, arrested over 50 people and revealed the sinister nature of how some of these companies operate. The Florida House immediately passed a bill banning these cafés. Then the Florida Senate Gaming Committee held meetings to investigate and they revealed some very troubling news. Namely, that criminals can operate these gambling centers. The Miami Herald explained:
Three operators of Internet cafes stood before the Florida Senate Gaming Committee last month and urged them to have mercy on their industry.
They told them of the job-creating potential of their business, their practice of offering free meals and free food to patrons, and how their gaming centers were favorite destinations for senior citizens.
What they didn’t tell them about was their past brushes with the law — from larceny, grand theft, check kiting and witness tampering to arrests for operating illegal gambling houses in violation of Florida law.
Under Florida law, owners and operators of Internet cafes do not have to pass any criminal background checks to be in business. And only those companies that operate electronic sweepstakes games with prizes valued at more than $5,000 must register with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Adult arcade operators do not have to register at all.
At the time of the testimony, many members of the Senate were unaware of criminal records of those very operators testifying to keep them open. The Miami Herald continued:
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, said he was unaware of the criminal record of some of the people who testified before his committee but said it serves as another reason to pass the legislation.
“These are not legitimate operations,’’ he said. “We don’t know who’s running them or who owns them.”
Bill Bunkley of the Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee said that the absence of regulation makes it impossible for anyone to know whether people with criminal records are clean operators or “preying on vulnerable people.”
“It’s an embarrassment that this has been operating under the radar,’’ he said. “Part of the branding of Florida is its retirement-safe community, but we’ve got an ever-increasing population that is vulnerable and you have to wonder how many of them are getting taken advantage of.’’
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