Casino Watch Focus reported that in the wake of the major investigations of Florida’s internet cafés, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to ban the gambling parlors. Further investigations revealed that these strip mall casinos were so under regulated, that no background checks were required and those with criminal pasts were running those facilities. As expected, the Senate has joined the House to ban internet cafés. The Miami Herald reports:
After a rigorous debate, the Florida Senate sent to the governor on Thursday a fast-tracked bill designed to clarify that slot-like gambling machines operated in Internet cafes, South Florida’s adult arcades and Miami’s maquintas are outlawed in Florida.
The measure is a reaction to a federal and state investigation into Allied Veterans of Florida that has led to 57 arrests for illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering. Police allege that that the pseudo veterans group made $300 million in profits by operating the illegal machines, but allegedly donated only 2 percent of its proceeds to charity. Legislators responded by concluding that the vague state law that allowed the gaming centers to operate needed to be clarified to give law enforcement more tools to shut down the illegal machines that have proliferated in strip malls throughout the state.
The Senate voted 36-4 for HB 155, which was approved two weeks ago 108-7 by the Florida House.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, making it effective immediately. The Herald provided comments given by Gov. Scott:
“I think the House and Senate did the right thing to crackdown on illegal gaming, especially in light of the Allied Veterans multi-state criminal conspiracy,’’ Scott told reporters on Wednesday.
The law becomes effective immediately, giving law enforcement new definitions on illegal gambling machines. It also imposes new restrictions on arcade games and bans all electronic casino look-alikes, including maquinitas in Miami and Hialeah.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who praised Scott and state lawmakers for passage of the bill, wasted little time in directing county law enforcement authorities to take action.
“I have already directed Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson to begin enforcing the law,” said Gimenez in a statement. “There is no longer any ambiguity about the fact that these machines and operations are illegal, and the newly-signed law will help deter the continued growth of illegal activities in Miami-Dade County and throughout the State of Florida.”
Because of the broad stroke used in the legislation to end these types of machines, there are groups that believe their type of gambling machines should have been allowed to operate. Prosecutors have long held that these machine only existed because of various loopholes and now those loopholes are closed:
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, who anchored the federal and state investigation called “Operation Reveal the Deal,” told the Herald/Times that the governor’s actions validated his efforts.
For years, Eslinger was among a handful of sheriffs that urged lawmakers to tighten the law to make it easier for law enforcement to crackdown on the illegal games only to have their proposals languish and Internet Cafes proliferate. In the meantime, the industry donated millions to legislative campaigns, estimated at more than $2 million in the 2012 election cycle alone.
“It wasn’t a loophole in the law,’’ Eslinger said Tuesday. “The law was complex, difficult and expensive to investigate — and this will certainly will enhance law enforcement efforts.’’
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