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Florida House Passes Bill To Ban "Internet Cafes" 124

squiggleslash writes "Concerned about their use as fronts for gambling operations, the Florida legislature passed a law banning Internet cafes. The law appears to be a reaction in part to the recent stepping down of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, embroiled in a scandal involving a company that operates Internet Cafes. More ordinary cafes with Wi-fi, where you supply your own computer (such as Starbucks), are not affected by the ban." The nomenclature here is confusing; the bill (PDF) (summary) is clearly aimed only at "cafes" that are essentially gambling venues; an Internet cafe wouldn't violate the proposed rule merely by providing computers. Whatever you think of prohibitions on gambling among consenting adults, the bill itself is sort of amusing for its very specific loopholes for bingo and "reverse vending machines."
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Florida House Passes Bill To Ban "Internet Cafes"

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  • by radiumsoup ( 741987 ) on Saturday March 23, 2013 @09:39AM (#43256343)

    submitter is playing a bit fast and loose in the description here... the law is *centrally* concerned with gambling, and any operation not involved with gambling but that does provide computers for the public's use is completely untouched by this - not just places like Starbucks. Not sure why the outrage, really. If gambling is illegal in Florida, this closes existing loopholes that some gambling houses used to skirt the law. It doesn't affect non-gambling "internet cafes" as they are traditionally known.

  • by porkThreeWays ( 895269 ) on Saturday March 23, 2013 @10:39AM (#43256647)
    These things have been around a long time. I remember when one first popped up about 8 years ago. My friends and I went to it and were amazed that they were legal. Instead of straight cash they paid out visa gift cards. Then about 4 years ago the zoning board approved one in my immediate area. Once they realized the name "arcade" was a cover for gambling, they immediately rescinded.

    The reason this is news is because our lieutenant governor was involved with a company that managed to take it to a new low. They operated these things under the guise that it was some sort of organization helping veterans. I think that was the last straw. After the bust, this legislation was introduced and quickly passed. It was completely reactionary and I'm sure poorly written due to the quickness with which it passed.

    As I said before, these things have been around for years. I must have at least a dozen near mean in the counties that allow it. Everyone knew they were shady, so no one can act like they are surprised by their existence.
  • Re:The summary... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 23, 2013 @11:10AM (#43256895)

    Did you read the PDF? Very first line "An act relating to the prohibition of electronic gambling devices;"

    I used to work in this industry. The company I worked for made accessories to go inside of these games. This is a disgusting industry.

    So, here's what happened on the operating side:
    -The people running these locations give food away for people who are playing the games.
    -The people playing the games only show up for the food (essentially), and put only a dollar or two into the "penny" games so they can sit there for hours (getting free food and drinks)
    -A competitor will open up down the street
    -The "customers" will then go back and fourth getting free food (alternate for lunch and dinner)
    -The locations can't make money, so they jack up the percentages on the games (instead of paying out 85%, they pay out 65%)
    -Location owners then start turning on each other and sabotaging others equipment
    -One owner finds out about the other and things get violent

    To be clear, this is gambling with out any oversight. These places open up on a weekend and can move again the next weekend. There is little legal recourse since the owners don't usually have much money to begin with, and move around regularly. I have since left business altogether, but last time while I was in Florida I was nearly roped into a small war between 2 locations.

    A little background: We worked typically 11PM-9AM. The location owners typically didn't want the close their doors during business hours. The owner of Location A claimed that Location B was was zapping their games with a cattle prod, using the wins to take their high-value prizes and using them as prizes at Location B. The equipment I installed was basically just grounding and monitoring equipment to prevent the cattle prod style attack.

    Location A: I installed our companies accessories Sunday night and Monday night and trained the employees Tuesday morning. The daughter of the owner (who was a local MMA fighter, probably fighting illegally, who lost custody of her children because of the fighting) was running the location.

    Location B: The owner of this location wanted the same thing, so I was ordered to go to Location B Wednesday night (parts needed to be shipped down). I worked until 7AM Thursday morning with the owner of Loc B. A little after 7, the daughter from Loc A came in the back door (which was open) and beat the owner of Loc B pretty bad. The entire left side of his face was bloody and his eye was swollen shut. He called someone, and about 15 minutes later a truck with 4 guys pulled up and picked up the owner.

    The owner of Loc B wanted me to help beat up this girl. The exact phrase was "I paid you guys THOUSANDS of dollars to install this equipment, so your my whore for the day. Get in the truck." I left my tools and equipment, hopped in my car and took off.

    This is what's going on in Florida. It's not on the news and it's very mafia-like. I shed no tears for these guys and every single one of them deserve to be shut down. Never again.

  • by Rob_Bryerton ( 606093 ) on Saturday March 23, 2013 @11:42AM (#43257145) Homepage
    First time I was in one, I couldn't believe it was legal. But by careful observation of the operation, it was clear that they were exploiting loopholes, and the verbiage they use to do this is quite amusing. It's not gambling, they're "sweepstakes". You don't "cash out", you "redeem your sweepstakes prizes/winnings/internet minutes/whatever". It's not video poker, it's "video sweepstakes". Etc, etc. This is how these places work:

    They are typically located in strip mall type buildings, and will be called Internet Cafe, Business center, Sweepstakes etc. You walk in, and it's basically a large room with say 50 PCs running XP on a LAN, and there's a manned booth (or atm type device) where you can deposit $ into your account. Say we go to the counter and give the attendant $20 for our account number 123456. Got to a PC, log into it w/your account# 123456, and you have a screen showing various things you can do: Internet browsing, blah, blah, blah, and Sweepstakes. So you have "credits" (or "internet minutes") in your account now: the $20.00 we deposited is 2000 credits (or minutes or whatever euphemism).

    The games are basically flash games w/casino themes: all types of slot machine types, keno, w/all kinds of goofy themes, running full screen on the PC, kiosk style. There's mini-games to keep you hooked (break up the monotony of click, spin, click, spin). The mini game will always give you $2.00 to say $50.00, and the player immediately has this credited to their account, and inevitably loses it shortly thereafter.

    So they're basically slot machines where you gamble "credits" as I like to call them, but that would be illegal. So they call them sweepstakes machines where you play for "internet minutes" which can be "redeemed" (never cashed out!) for dollars.

    NC has tried a couple times to ban these establishments, but they just switch out the games and call them something else, say play for phone card minutes, and they just keep going. It's just a matter of time before they get forced out by the state though. It's inevitable; we can't have those "educational" lotto dollars being spent elsewhere, now can we? ;)
  • by arbulus ( 1095967 ) on Saturday March 23, 2013 @02:53PM (#43258395)
    Apparently few people here realize what these places actually are. You drive around any Florida town right now (I'm a Florida resident), and you see on nearly every corner, a "Internet Sweepstakes" or "Internet Cafe". These aren't the internet cafes of old that we remember where you can pay for an hour to surf the web. They are gambling estabilishments that exploit a loophole in gambling law. They only call themselves "internet cafes" to make it seem innocuous. These places have also become a turn-key, get-rich-quick scheme. That's why you see so many blighting the landscape. They're trash. Pure trash. And they're taking advantage of loopholes hoping no one will notice. I for one am glad for the proposed ban. Now if we can only ban check cashing and payday loan places, we'd be a hell of a lot better off.

That does not compute.