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Florida’s Internet Cafes

A new Senate committee is determined to look into the future of Florida’s internet cafes, amid concerns that the so called strip mall casinos should be regulated if not banned fully. These cafes allow players to enter sweepstakes when they play casino games over the internet, which will allow them to win – but not through the games themselves, something that may or may not afford them a loophole in the law according to the decisions that will be made by the new committee.

“Internet cafes are cropping up by the hundreds in communities all over Florida, and local governments are struggling with it,” said new Senate President Don Gaetz, who also claims that the state has all but “ignored” this issue instead of dealing with it head on. The House was looking at a bill last session that would have outlawed the internet cafes completely, but now the main sponsor – who was Representative Scott Plakon – has lost his re-election bid and can no longer push the bill forward. Meanwhile, the internet cafes did the smart thing and put in more than $860,000 in donations to legislative races in order to elect candidates who they hope will not want to see them banned.

“Our coalition continues to encourage increased regulation as opposed to an outright ban of Internet cafes,” said Sarah Bascom, who is a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Florida’s Internet Cafes, which includes some of the major operators in the state. Gaetz himself has intimated that he would prefer the cafes to be banned, but that the issue should be part of a broader review of gambling in the state. The committee will be looking at all kinds of gambling areas in Florida: destination casino resorts, such as the proposed venues in South Florida that have been suggested by Genting and Las Vegas Sands; racinos, the racing tracks that include slot machine games in Miami-Dade and Broward; and the recent referendums in Palm Beach, Lee, Gadsden and Washington Counties which passed to show support for slot machines being added to pari-mutuel facilities in those areas.

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