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Gambling-Focused Internet Cafes Now Illegal In Florida 53

Posted by timothy
from the but-starbucks-is-nervous dept.
retroworks writes "I ignored the warning posted here on Slashdot on March 23. Surely someone was setting up some April Fools day hoax. But the Governor has now signed the bill. Whose cold dead hands will they pry the computer mice out of?" Note: while this might not change your opinion of the Florida law or other things it might lead to, it is aimed specifically at the kind of "Internet cafe" where the "Internet" part is essentially just a portal to online gambling, rather than at conventional Internet cafes.
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Gambling-Focused Internet Cafes Now Illegal In Florida

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  • by dwhitaker (1500855) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:38AM (#43421697) Homepage
    These are NOT internet cafes - they masquerade as such, but are really mini casinos. They are popularly known as "sweepstakes cafes" and often provide free food and drinks to encourage people to stay and gamble. This article (http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20120512/ARTICLE/120519835) does a pretty good job describing some of their features (e.g. one in Sarasota, FL gives out 50 kegs of free beer each month and offers $20,000 jackpots). You can think what you will about whether online (or offline) gambling is a good or bad thing, but this seems well within the purview of a state government to regulate or shut down, and they seem to have acted reasonably.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by RogueyWon (735973) *
      Your point is entirely valid, but I do hope they've been careful with the drafting of this one. They don't have the best record recently at avoiding unintended consequences [huffingtonpost.ca].
      • It was reactionary to a bigger scandal that happened here. I doubt they were very careful. It passed pretty quickly.
      • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:09AM (#43421989) Homepage Journal

        Was it Wisconsin, where following worries about contaminating groundwater with oil they passed a law stating "any even motor vehicle even partially immersed in water must be immediately moved to dry ground" efficiently banning all ships and motorboats?

        • by westlake (615356)

          Was it Wisconsin, where following worries about contaminating groundwater with oil they passed a law stating "any even motor vehicle even partially immersed in water must be immediately moved to dry ground" efficiently banning all ships and motorboats?

          The power boaters and jet skiers would cry "Foul!"

          But there is nothing particularly unusual about restricting fragile inland (state) waterways to rafts, rowboats and canoes.

    • by b4upoo (166390)

      Florida's position on gambling seems to boil down to greed. We allow gambling on Indian reservations here and we allow casino type operations in our horse racing tracks. Then we also allow gambling in which coupons are won rather than cash.
      Apparently it is all based upon greed. Florida government seems to feel that gambling is just dandy as long as the money stays in Florida. Or put differently m

      • by tilante (2547392)

        Quibble: the state doesn't 'allow' gambling on Indian reservations. It has no power to stop it. The Supreme Court has held that states do not have power to regulate activities performed by Indians on Indian reservations.

      • I don't have the knowledge to be able to address each of your points (in the affirmative or negative), but Native American Reservations have sovereignty in their own right, and, along with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, that pretty much makes Native American Gaming something that the state has - at best - limited say in. Check out the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_gaming [wikipedia.org]
    • That herald article was interesting, providing liquor, food, beer, whatever it takes to keep 'em sitting down in that chair. I was amazed how brazen they became, they were in almost every broken down strip mall, everywhere. Good riddance.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:39AM (#43421707)
    What kind of Mickey Mouse State would pass .... Oh wait!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Internet Cafes", more specifically Internet Sweepstakes Cafes, in Florida have NOTHING to do with the internet.

    These cafes were running PC based slot-machine type games. Internet cafes, where you can rent PC/internet time is still legal in Florida, but there are none because either everyone has their own or they go to the library for free.

    This story should not be on Slashdot.

  • Summary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpicker0 (411333) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:51AM (#43421823)
    I don't understand the expression of surprise in the first part of the summary. The "cafes" referred to are set up specifically to skirt the state gambling laws by taking advantage of the "sweepstakes" loophole. They make it appear that you're playing video poker, roulette, etc. but you're really just revealing your sweepstakes winnings, which were predetermined when you bought into the game. Bloomberg Businessweek [businessweek.com] had an interesting article on these things a few years ago.

    ... rather than at conventional Internet cafes.

    I'm not sure what "conventional Internet cafes" refers to. The idea of the "Internet cafe" as a place where people go to buy time on the Internet died shortly after it was born in the late 90's. You can still go to Starbucks, Panera, etc. and use the Internet there; this bill isn't aimed at that. This is not a big deal.

    • by Applekid (993327)

      I don't understand the expression of surprise in the first part of the summary. The "cafes" referred to are set up specifically to skirt the state gambling laws by taking advantage of the "sweepstakes" loophole. They make it appear that you're playing video poker, roulette, etc. but you're really just revealing your sweepstakes winnings, which were predetermined when you bought into the game. Bloomberg Businessweek [businessweek.com] had an interesting article on these things a few years ago.

      Here's the thing about this moral panic. Florida allows gambling. Florida allows casinos. This is clearly just a move to protect the interests of the existing casinos by eliminating the competition that was successfully able to also provide gambling entertainment with significantly lower startup costs.

      Seems like those startup costs omitted kickbacks to the politicians.

    • by Bigby (659157)

      I love out a loophole to gambling is a "sweepstakes". Oh the irony...or should I say hypocrisy?

  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:53AM (#43421847)
    This story has a long history. Basically these places were operating with a variety of names (cafes, arcades, sweepstakes, probably others) for many years. They operated based on loopholes in Florida law and their sole purpose was for gambling. A very large one got shut down because they crossed the line from simply unethical to illegal. They were operating under the premise they were a veterans benefit organization and not actually giving veterans and significant amounts of money. The lieutenant governor was involved with the company somehow so the story exploded. Rick Scott is already wildly unpopular and the Florida Republican party is on the path to possibly losing 2014 so the hammer came down to make a point that the legislature can still get things done.

    It's pretty telling that the company that was shut down was run mostly by lawyers. They operated along the cracks and loopholes of Florida laws. These places are usually in poor and retired neighborhoods so I'm not that sad to see them go away. Maybe if we can do something about the "WE BUY GOLD" and check cashing places we can start to clean up these communities.
    • Yes. And one of the largest targeted group of cafes purported to raise funds in the cafes for veterans, but allegedly, little of it made it to vererans' organizations.

    • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:59AM (#43422397) Homepage

      > Maybe if we can do something about the "WE BUY GOLD" and check cashing places
      > we can start to clean up these communities.

      Right and maybe if we can get fever under control, we can stop malaria.

      We all know, afterall, the primary reason they are poor is that they are out there selling their gold and other hard assetts rather than hording them.

      The "Check cashers" are pretty eggerious poverty profiteers, and I know people who have ended up fucked by those deals.

      Cleaning up those neighborhoods is not contingent upon stopping them, any more than extending life expectancy will be accomplished by destroying saprophytes. Kill them all, and you still wont be cleaning up the neighborhoods. You need to address the real causes of poverty, for which there likely are no simple single solutions. Do that, though, and the vultures will starve.

      Bigger problems are that the economy needs to grow significantly to deal with massive underemployment, and people need to be trained for jobs. Do you have any idea how big the real problems are? We have entire communities where significant portions of the population are technically disabled and on disability.

      Why? well... because they can't work. They are easily disabled because they have no ability to get a job that doesn't involve physical labor. A 40 year old woman with a high school level education, who has back pain, likely IS disabled...even though I, and many people I know, could work with the same condition, just because we can get jobs where we sit.

      One woman I heard interviewed recently, when asked what job she COULD do, she said she could "find cheats in the welfare system". After being pressed a bit on how she chose THAT of all jobs.... it turns out.... its the only job she knew about where people could work sitting down.

      There are entire communities like this, of people who are either disabled from the only work available to them, or who are on their way to being there. The long term answer has to include education and worker training (something that wont even be considered once people are officially "disabled"), but even that wont magically fix things...but it might give the people in those communities a leg up on attacking their own problems.

      Of course, it doesn't help that our "justice system" has been systematically abused to disenfranchise uppity niggers who think they can get away with using the same drugs that white kids get slapped on the wrist for using. (which is why I consider the call for more "background checks" incredibly racist) This has also lead to a situation where these communities have well higher than makes any kind of sense rates of felony and minor crime backgrounds, helping to shut the members of their community out from better jobs (and often education)....just adding to the financial woe and human misery.

      Its funny, when I call for the drug war to end in reparations, I am sometimes told "you are not getting any money for smoking pot", as if I think its my white middle class pot smoking ass that has suffered, not even close. I thank my lucky stars for my situation, and it makes me mad that others suffer for their persuit of happiness.

      • by rs1n (1867908)

        > Maybe if we can do something about the "WE BUY GOLD" and check cashing places > we can start to clean up these communities.

        Right and maybe if we can get fever under control, we can stop malaria.

        We all know, afterall, the primary reason they are poor is that they are out there selling their gold and other hard assetts rather than hording them.

        The "Check cashers" are pretty eggerious poverty profiteers, and I know people who have ended up fucked by those deals.

        It's not the poor that the parent was necessarily referring to. These places often take in stolen goods, and rip off legitimate customers. Granted, a quick Google search would enable the customer to make a sound decision on whether to sell to such places, it does not change the fact that these places rip off customers. Here's a good read:

        http://www.businessinsider.com/former-employee-reveals-the-seedy-world-of-we-buy-gold-businesses-2012-8

      • by b4upoo (166390)

        In order for people to be disabled according to Social Security they must be disabled from all work whether the work is available or not. In other words if you went from a $150K position to a situation where you simply sat in a chair in a closed warehouse for minimum wage you would be disqualified for disability even if no such watchman posts existed in the community.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          When was this? Recently? He may not have been in the right position. Apparently there are companies now that are paid by states to find people on welfare who can be moved to disability. It essentially gets them an advocate who helps them through the process.

          http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/ [npr.org]

          That is one of the NPR stories (which they caught some flak for). I thought the comments of the doctor that they talked to were quite insightful. As sad and bad as I think it is, I actually find myself agreeing with his

    • ...the hammer came down to make a point that the legislature can still get things done.

      Of course. The trivial shit is easy. What are they doing to help the victims of foreclosure fraud?

    • by Vreejack (68778)

      In the late 90's "Internet cafes" were actually a means to make high interest payday loans. You would buy a membership at the cafe on credit and they would offer to front you a whole lot of money. There was one outside the naval air station at Mayport, near the strip club. I didn't know what it was until they started closing them down.

  • Actual Bill Text (Score:5, Informative)

    by dwhitaker (1500855) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:09AM (#43421987) Homepage
    Here is the actual bill as signed as a PDF: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0155/BillText/er/PDF [flsenate.gov] Florida (and governing bodies in general) can easily pass bills with unintended consequences as pointed about by others' comments, so read the bill yourself to see what actually took place. The actual bill is called "CS/HB 155: Prohibition of Electronic Gambling Devices".
    • Good link. Most news reports have simply used "Internet cafes" as shorthand, and I was worried that the bill really was drafted widely enough to cover ordinary Internet cafes (Starbucks with terminals) type businesses. It does appear, however, that the law is focused on gambling, and a genuine Internet cafe - one where you buy time, and only time, to use a computer to connect to the net - will not be impacted by this law.

      I don't think there are that many actual Internet Cafes (as opposed to "Internet Caf

  • My brokerage account will be blocked too?
  • We have this all around the coast here in South Carolina -- they even advertise on billboards. SC banned private gambling operations (such as poker machines) in 2000 while simultaneously starting the "South Carolina Education Lottery" to fill the void; many businesses went kapoot then, but recently this private surge of Internet Cafe gambling has come out, as technically gambling from a server located in another state is still a grey area. Charleston hasn't really done anything to impede the progress of pla
  • One of the companies, in Florida anyway, that runs a chain of these (Gambling) Internet Cafes, was doing so supposedly to support American veterans. After a thorough audit of their business (which is partly responsible for this bill being drafted in the first place), it was found that out of the (10's of millions of) money the "organization" made that year, only 2% went to their charity, and a larger percentage going to political donations (which, apparently didn't help them much in the long run :> ).
  • What other things would it lead to? FL, like every other state excepting NV, asserts a government monopoly on gambling. (some states license out that monopoly geographically or otherwise, but that's not the same as being permissive.)

    How is it at all surprising that they are cracking down on a scheme to circumvent this monopoly, and what will it ``lead to"?

  • These 'cafes' are really only there for one reason: to separate your retired grandparents or parents from their retirement checks. You can get free wifi in pretty much any restaurant and free internet computers in any library; there's just no reason for internet cafes down here in Florida. That said, I'm sure the full casinos pushed through the bill.
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